Saks Does A “Dance” For Its Ballroom Collection

Although it’s only the beginning of November, Saks Fifth Avenue wants you to think about what you’ll be wearing for the holidays. I attended an open to the public event showcasing the 9th floor Ballroom Collection featuring a runway show put together by Harper’s Bazaar Executive Fashion & Beauty Editor Avril Graham. Ms. Graham was there to present and give commentary as the models walked the runway in the newly renovated space, just the beginning of all the changes that will be happening over the next year at the Fifth Avenue store.

Champagne, hors d’oeuvres and a DJ were all on hand, as well as the de rigueur plethora of store managers and their minions all standing around watchfully waiting. On each seat was a copy of November’s Harper’s Bazaar with a card laid on top showing “Avril’s Picks.”

We have all faced the quandary of what to wear to what Graham calls a “nebulous” invitation. “Is it long, is it short? Is it glittery, is it not?” she conjectured, all in her native British-ese. Apparently Graham had pulled fashions for the models to wear however, by her own admission, she doesn’t concern herself with the prices (“someone else at the magazine has got that job”) or even which dresses are by which designers, as she got a few of those wrong and was gingerly corrected by an unlucky Saks employee.

Beginning with a modest long sleeved black cocktail dress she worked her way up to long gold and sequined, black tie ballgowns and a few evening separates. In a nod to Carolina Herrera, a white shirt (Carmen Marc Valvo) was teamed with a long full black skirt (Nha Khanh) complete with popped collar a la Ms. Herrera Designers featured included Jovani, Milly, Pamella by Pamella Roland, Marchesa Notte, Carmen Marc Valvo, Parker, Theia, Nha Khanh, Rene Ruiz, Sachin & Babi, and Teri Jon.

Although there were colors such as violet, red, midnight blue, winter white she admitted that she will not use the phrase “pop of color” anymore. When an emerald green cocktail dress with a gold embroidered design walked the runway on a stunning redhead, she asked the audience not to play matchy-matchy with the accessories. Picking up a nearby gold Alexander McQueen ring fingered bag she warned against it adding that a burgundy bag would be better. Call me uninspired but I would totally have gone for the McQueen! Also, never match your shoes to your bag; an old chestnut I tossed out ages ago.

Black suede pumps were worn with every look as Graham thought that the closed toe worked best with some of the retro ’50s inspired silhouettes (stiffer satin bell-like skirts as well as those with an asymmetrical hem). Some dresses naturally got more attention than others; a shiny kaleidoscopic Parker dress with sheer netting which would not have looked out of place at the CMA’s ($795) elicited gasps as the model approached. Most dresses were moderately priced topping out at around $1,500 however Graham acted like that was chump change. She commented that you couldn’t tell that a particular dress was only $1,200 when it looked like it could be $12,000. Uh, maybe if you squinted, closed one eye and had imbibed several hallucinogens.

A rack of shrugs, stoles and cropped jackets from the fur department were by her side enabling her to hand an appropriate choice off to the model to try after they had walked the runway in the dress alone. Graham demonstrated the newest way to wear a fur fling: draped in equal lengths in the front and belted with a skinny belt. “Don’t worry! It won’t hurt the fur” she added. No, I thought, the fur is already dead. Lol Just in case anyone had a fur objection she also had a few feathered pieces adding that she often wears a black feathered piece over her gowns because it gets a lot of attention. Agreed! I have two of them. “If you do buy one of these fur pieces, please don’t save it for evening. Wear it with your jeans!” she commanded. Although she didn’t showcase any pants outfits, she did mention that everyone should have a tuxedo in their wardrobe because sometimes “you just don’t want to be the girl in the dress.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t recount a few of the stories with which she regaled her mostly rapt audience (including several men). After first name checking the royal family (she jets off frequently to the UK to cover events such as the Royal Jubilee, Concerts at Buckingham Palace and of course, the Royal Wedding); mentioning what she wore to the Oscars; and, on a lesser note, that she recently had dinner with new designers Sachin and Babi. Upon arriving late to the Marchesa show at the St. Regis due to NY Fashion Week traffic (“You couldn’t get from Point A to Point B during fashion week. Everything was all spread out”) and hyperventilating in a cab, she still arrived in time to go backstage and see the models all lined up–“Even better than watching them walk the runway” she said. After the show, Graham invited the attendees to try on the dresses which she added, were available in other sizes besides the 0’s the models had worn.

Although we, as industry folks can be somewhat jaded, I can tell you with certainty that the two women next to me were duly impressed…and just a tinge annoyed by the recounting of events that were completely out of their grasp yet were just another day in the charmed life of an elite fashion editor.

– Laurel Marcus

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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