checkout complete detailed article on Lisa Aiken from Neiman Marcus walks through San Francisco – WWD
Eight months have been a whirlwind for Lisa Aiken since she joined Neiman Marcus last August. As the new director of fashion and lifestyle for one of the nation’s leading department stores, her roster can quickly fill with meetings, fashion shows and other events at her New York City base.
But that couldn’t stop Aiken from heading to the Bay Area, and Neiman’s San Francisco flagship marked the occasion with dinner at Leo’s Oyster Bar on Wednesday and an in-store lunch for customers on Thursday, with a fashion presentation.
The latter promised to deliver “the season’s must-haves” but also brought plenty of charm.
Guests enjoyed the elegantly decorated luncheon service and listened to Aiken talk with Carolyne Zinko, former San Francisco Chronicle gossip columnist. Meanwhile, models floated around the room, giving attendees a close-up view, in a scene that was a bit reminiscent of the lunchtime fashion shows of yesteryear.
Aside from that bit of nostalgia, however, everything else was decidedly current. In all, the store showcased two dozen looks from Valentino, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Celine, Alexander McQueen and more.
Aiken chose a Jacquemus crop top, Dries van Noten pants and Bottega Veneta heels for the occasion, and after meeting with sales associates and customers, the excitement about the experience seemed to persist even after the show.
“This is my first visit to the San Francisco Neiman Marcus store, and I have to say I think it went very well,” he told WWD. “I’ve certainly met an extraordinary group of our clients who are very, very passionate about fashion and the time they spend with Neiman Marcus and some of their stylists.”
Whether San Francisco has a bad reputation for fashion, as the land of hippie clothing and cork sandals or, perhaps more recently, hoodies and “tech bro” vests, is up for debate. But nowhere is that thought more prevalent than in the minds of the area’s own fashion patrons, who often share modest comments about the region’s fashion credibility.
Aiken also recorded some of the sentiment, but rejects the idea.
“A couple of clients have told me that, and yet everyone I talk to seems to know every brand, every collection I talk about,” he said. “They all seem very passionate about the industry and enjoy fashion, they really embrace their idea of personal style. So I don’t know, maybe it’s a long-standing misconception.”
There were also surprises for Aiken inside the company. After months on the job, she still can’t get over the culture and energy level she sees in the ranks.
“You can really feel that excitement for the future and building something that is very differentiated within retail in the US,” he continued. “There is a real commitment to that, and it comes through, from Geoffroy [van Raemdonck, chief executive officer] through sales associates I’ve been meeting with over the past few days.”
The observation underscores the department store’s ambition to evolve as a luxury lifestyle platform. Part of that mission is to unite its physical stores, online shopping and remote sales through its customer technology.
Aiken described it as “a business, an ecosystem that our customer lives in… so we come back from the market, we’re talking about the projects that we’re planning for next year. I think I have 12 months of a calendar planned with exclusive projects and collaborations that would extend to digital and stores.
That includes an upcoming project for private clients in San Francisco, a collaboration with Prada that will have a strong digital component. The ethos also extends to marketing and merchandising campaigns, encompassing what he shoots for his style books and what he puts in store windows and emails. Aiken and others will help connect the dots, from event invitations with QR codes to exclusive microsites for VIP clients, among other things.
That sounds like a lot, especially considering this is her first role in a physical store. But ultimately, the foundation is the same, because commitment to service and customer relationships transcends platforms.
That’s where department stores like Neiman excel, he said. “I think you understand that the value of the department store to the customer is really unmatched by anyone else. If you look at some of the corporate changes – we had that amazing news about Farfetch just a couple of weeks ago – you can see that overall there is confidence that the model is moving forward.”
Earlier this month, Farfetch revealed that it is investing up to $200 million in Neiman Marcus Group. The deal will “re-platform” the Bergdorf Goodman site and app and bring them to the Farfetch marketplace, along with Neiman Marcus, as part of Farfetch’s Luxury New Retail initiative.
Customers may not be aware of, and probably do not care about, operational changes happening in the background. But the company believes they will benefit from it. And in the meantime, he intends to deliver the signature experiences and personal touches that his customers care about, like Neiman’s fashion director who travels across the country to meet them.
And, of course, they care about fashion.
At that point, Aiken believes we’re in a rare period of creativity: “I think the industry is at a stage where, after everything we’ve been through (designers, stylists, editors, everyone), there’s a real sense of of optimism about what comes next for the industry. That comes through in the collections we’re looking at,” she said.
“It’s one of the most creative moments in fashion I’ve seen in a long time.”