VMSD - March 2013 - (Page 10)
MI C H AEL RO S S , N E W YOR K
Edited by Steve Kaufman
Saks Windows Honor Sophie Gimbel
As it occasionally has done in the past, Saks Fifth
Avenue created a window campaign not devoted to
Instead, in early January, the flagship’s windows
along Fifth Avenue in New York – its “conduits to
the world,” says senior vp Harry Cunningham –
told a story about the company’s illustrious history
as they celebrated Sophie Gimbel.
As before, with a window devoted to the AIDS
quilt and one marking the anniversary of 9/11, Saks
presented these windows as “a gift to New York,”
according to Matt Read, vp, visual merchandising.
Gimbel was head custom designer at Saks
for almost 40 years, from 1929 until the 1960s,
leading the retailer’s exclusive Salon Moderne.
When she took over the largely unsuccessful hall,
she generated interest by designing costumes for
Broadway shows. Soon, she was known for her
contemporary and feminine styles, and the salon
Helen O’Hagan, a colleague and former Saks
vp, said, “Sophie brought a feminine look for the
fitted woman, both for day and evening clothes.”
In a time noted for detail, elegantly constructed
clothes and a glamorous lifestyle, Gimbel’s philosophy was clear, “The American woman spends
a lifetime keeping her figure. She deprives herself
of many luscious tidbits to whittle down her waist10 MARCH 2013 | vmsd.com
line. Why should she sacrifice it?”
This was especially true after World War II,
though Gimbel opposed the “New Look” – simple elegance and expensive fabrics, but practical
and easy to wear. She’s credited with introducing
culottes to the American market.
In 1947, Gimbel became the first American
designer to be featured on the cover of Time magazine. (Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli had preceded her in 1934.) A true champion of American
fashion, she dressed entertainers, public figures,
ladies and politicians’ wives. In 1965, she designed
the red coat and dress Lady Bird Johnson wore to
her husband’s inauguration.
Saks installed the windows in collaboration
with the Parsons School of Design, which is holding an exhibition of its collection of her works
called “Sophie Gimbel, Fashioning American Couture” at its Aronson Galleries.
Saks’ visual merchandising team worked with
the gallery’s curatorial staff to recreate the feeling of
the Salon Moderne – a walk through fashion history
for casual Fifth Avenue strollers and aspiring fashion
designers. Students in Parsons’ couture techniques
class interpreted the garments in their own work.
So once again, the style of Sophie Gimbel
appears on the streets of New York, and not a
moment too soon. —Eric Feigenbaum
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VMSD - March 2013
From the Editor
VMSD Editorial Advisory Board
VMSD - March 2013