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Jane Seymour in Saks coming out party

Looking to bring the department store customer back to the department store, Saks Department Store Group formally introduced its first collection with actress Jane Seymour recently, with plans for the next installment for spring already under way.

"We kicked our customer out to the specialty stores," said Howard Winkler, svp. However, this premiere is only the first major step toward "true fashion merchandising. If you had your eyes closed, and I put you in the middle of [the Jane Seymour] boutique, you would think you were in a specialty store when you opened your eyes."

The premiere is part of SDSG's strategy to move very aggressively in presenting lifestyle concepts to its customers. In addition, what makes the Seymour collection more special is that "it's inspired by something. It's not made up."

Though the collection is very opulent, Seymour said, "I wanted it to be accessible to everybody so that it could be in an apartment in Detroit or Florida, for example. It's a very personal collection."

Titled St. Catherine's Court after Seymour's home in Bath, England, the collection was inspired by different aspects of the house, which has origins dating back to 950 A.D. Totaling 500 skus, St. Catherine's Court consists of six bedding groups, each relating to a different aspect of the castle: Royal Dress, Winthrop Park, Floral Overture, Sommerset Garden, Threads of Gold and King's Flourish. A tabletop and table linen group is also part of the collection, and some of the groups have coordinating bath, accent rugs and window.

The collection's bedding fills a hole, Winkler said. "There's not a lot out in the marketplace between bed-in-a-bag and custom-made bedding," he said. With an average queen-size comforter set costing $400, the bedding gives the customer a master bed look with custom attributes at an affordable price.

The collection also offers silk/cotton sheets. "We didn't want to get in the thread count war," he said. "We wanted to do something different."

Two hundred participating stores in Saks' group — which includes Proffitt's, Parisian, McRae's, Younkers, Carson Pirie Scott, Bergner's and Boston Store — will have boutiques sized in a six-bed, 2,000-square-foot space, a four-bed 1,500-square-foot space or one or two beds in a 500-square-foot space. "We have a lot of six- and four-bed shops," Winkler added.

The boutiques have a more balanced mix of soft and hard home, he said, at about 60 percent to 40 percent, respectively, while the designer shops, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren, are more soft, and which were cut back to make room for Seymour's collection. Besides textiles, the collection includes such hard goods as bath accessories, candlesticks, decorative birdhouses, jeweled boxes and frames, and desk sets.

Prices include queen silk/cotton sheets or 400-count sateen sheets for $230; bath, hand, wash and tip towels ranging from $7 to $34; and decorative pillows ranging from $24 to $100. The collection is a mix of domestically made and imported goods. Due to customer requests, it will also begin selling furniture later this year.

The Royal Dress ensemble, which uses deep shades of red with gold reminiscent of the Tudor era, is the group that has received the most positive response from customers to date, said Winkler.

The blue hue in the Sommerset Garden group is similar to denim, Seymour said. "We live in a denim-friendly world." It is also "high on my favorite list" of all of the bedding, for a summer look. "I'm a sucker for blue and white." For a fall and winter look, she favors the red Royal Dress.

Seymour has been collecting antique textiles for as long as she can remember. "I'm totally into textiles," she said, which now includes designing for retailer Crossing Pointe. Earlier in her career, when she was a ballerina, she also held a job as an embroiderer.

Seymour's Coral Canyon collection, a more casual lifestyle group that is inspired by the actress' Malibu home, is expected to launch in stores next spring. That home has a lot of white on white, she said, with splashes of Tuscany and Santa Fe colors.

Winkler said that he expected the company to expand the boutiques to accommodate Coral Canyon, but it has to see what happens with the present collection first.

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