New York City real estate doesn’t get more prime than Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th streets. The East Side stretch belongs to Saks Fifth Avenue, which is using its flagship to make a major statement in support of American fashion beginning today. For two weeks, the department store is filling all of its windows with American brands showing during New York Fashion Week in September.
Timed to the lead up to NYFW, the window concept is meant as a pep rally of homegrown fashion during a moment when American designers could use a boost. “The whole state of American fashion is going through a change,” said Roopal Patel, Saks’ senior vice president and fashion director. “For the last few seasons, there’s been a lot discussion, a lot of conversation about the calendar, and New York Fashion Week, and what American fashion means today. We felt it was a really important moment to celebrate American fashion and creativity.”
Patel said Saks asked all of the American brands the store carries that are showing during New York Fashion Week to participate, and the return was high.
The center six Saks Fifth Avenue windows will feature designer windows by Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, Carolina Herrera, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Oscar de la Renta and Ralph Lauren. 3.1 Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang, Brandon Maxwell, Derek Lam, Gabriela Hearst, Jason Wu, Jonathan Simkhai, Monse, Proenza Schouler and Rosie Assoulin will be displayed in the remaining Fifth Avenue windows. Alice & Olivia, Coach, Diane von Furstenberg, Eileen Fisher, Lafayette 148, Lela Rose, Milly, Naeem Khan, Rag & Bone, Tanya Taylor and Tibi fashion are situated on 49th and 50th streets.
Each brand was given carte blanche to come up with a concept.
“We basically gave them the measurements of the windows and said, ‘Here’s a white box. You create your vision. What would you like your brand to stand for in this moment and celebration of American fashion?’” said Patel.
The results are wide-ranging. Carolina Herrera’s window features four mannequins in the house’s signature ball skirts and white shirts against a grand salon entrance painted with rainbow stripes. Creative director Wes Gordon said the theme was “Bold colors for bold women. Life is a celebration and I wanted our window to emphasize that.”
Oscar de la Renta’s Laura Kim noted that the brand’s window was designed around the fall collection’s enchanted garden theme. “We did a forest decoration with silver birch trees and greens and flowers in the background because the clothes are kind of loud, so we didn’t want to overpower it,” said Kim. Coach’s window has a peppy New York City theme set with four payphones displaying handbags. “As America’s Original House of Leather, we remain inspired by our heritage and innovation,”said Laura Dubin-Wander, Coach’s president of North America. “We’re honored to be a part of Saks’ windows and celebrate NYFW along with other iconic American-based brands.”
Tibi’s window was based on its fall 2018 runway show, which was inspired by city construction sites. “The raw materials, the bright color palette of equipment and signage, and even the mesh netting used for safety,” explained Amy Smilovic, Tibi’s creative director and founder. “The ‘stools’ for the models in the window are actually made of painter buckets and spray-painted by hand to match the tonal palette of the season’s collection.”
The execution of each display was done in collaboration with Saks’ production team, but the brand was responsible for its own design and installation costs, which apparently is standard practice for the store.
All together, the window package represents a broad swath of designers and brands across markets and price points. “You have Monse, Gabriela Hearst. Eileen Fisher, Ralph Lauren,” said Patel. “For Saks, that’s probably the biggest achievement — to see that when the American fashion designers really come together, what a statement it makes.”
As Patel noted, New York Fashion Week has faced some challenges in the past few years, most noticeably with some of its most exciting brands taking their shows to other cities or deciding not to show at all. Additionally, many American firms have struggled to compete with the European houses owned by the main luxury conglomerates LVMH and Kering. But those issues are to a large degree industry-facing. Asked if the Saks customer needs a reminder of the store’s American brands, Patel said, “It’s not the intention to remind everyone who the American designers are. The customer is very aware. We have a customer who comes here during New York Fashion Week, attends the shows and visits our designers’ showrooms and studios for more up-close interactions. It’s very important that we as a community celebrate American designers and American fashion at these key moments…When we come into September, it always is about New York Fashion Week. So, it’s a wonderful synergy.”