Critical Shopper: Where Masters and Mistresses of the Universe Can Have It All
But they would be perfect for a spin around Saks, which resembles a clean, well-lighted spacecraft, with rack after rack of clothes in the round. The shoe salon radiates concentrically outward from an enormous bubbled chandelier, and the designer fashion section orbits around a central bank of escalators and a kicky display that changes monthly. (It is currently given over to the exuberant designs of Rosie Assoulin, a riot of deck chairs on a packing-peanut “beach.” Summer share!) The point of this Saks is bounty: the way the racks groan with clothes, one leading seamlessly, and slightly disorientingly, to the next.
The masters of the universe who work upstairs (and whose families are penthoused nearby) are used to having it all, and Saks seems determined to offer it all to them. It is organized by designer, and the gang’s all here: the rowdy Americans (Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang, Proenza Schouler), the elegant Europeans (Chloé, Akris), the flouncy, convention-flouting avant-garde (Comme des Garçons, Sacai, Simone Rocha). There are spaces for more moderately priced “contemporary” clothes, denim, handbags and beauty products, but because of the mostly open layout, everything runs together, even in defiance of logic.
A Baja East tie-dyed T-shirt featuring the “Minions” characters (“very Venice boardwalk,” Hannah said) hangs a few feet from dressy office garb by Akris’s Punto line. (The same issue prevails on a smaller scale at the Saks men’s store across the mall, where racks of outgoing pieces by Thom Browne, Lanvin and Off-White segue into Saks’s more conservative private label, for maximum sartorial whiplash.)
A focused trip through Saks — the kind you might make on a lunch-break search mission — can yield treasures. Hannah found clunky-heeled shoes by Dries Van Noten that stopped her short, bright separates from A.L.C. and Alice + Olivia, and an asymmetrical tie-front dress in a lipstick red by Proenza Schouler ($1,850) that she loved. “This is the sort of thing that makes me wish I was invited to luncheons,” she said, giving it a spin in front of a dressing room mirror as a hopeful clerk looked on.
But in the absence of a tighter edit, overabundance can lead to exhaustion. Trendy pieces — the patch-studded jean jacket, the men’s-wear-style shirt — appear with slight variations (and at different prices) across brands. Variety can be a virtue, but this recurrence makes much of the offering feel like a mountain of merchandise in search of a stern curator, special items adrift in mere swag. “Some of it feels like stuff for the Kardashians to put into their closets and never look at again,” Hannah said.
A full-throttle Saks expedition could legitimately require a vacation afterward. Here, too, of course, the store is ready to help. An exclusive selection of sweatshirts ($95) and hoodies ($115) by the New York label Knowlita teases a certain tribe’s favorite escapes: “St. Barth or Nowhere”; “The Cape or Nowhere”; and, perhaps hopefully, “Saks or Nowhere.”
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