After a whirlwind month covering the fashion shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris, Roopal Patel, senior vice president and fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, gave the lowdown to Valerie Steele, curator and director of The Museum of FIT on Thursday afternoon.
The conversation, which took place at the third annual winter luncheon of the Couture Council of The Museum at FIT, was held at Avra Madison Estiatorio and sponsored by Saks. The event was attended by approximately 120 people and raised $65,000 for The Museum at FIT.
By way of introduction, Kathy Reilly, luncheon chair, said Patel has driven the transformation of Saks since 2015, with responsibility for trend forecasting, spotting emerging designers and honing the seasonal fashion message.
Steele then kicked off the discussion, asking Patel to describe her primary day-to-day responsibilities and strategic point of view.
Patel, who oversees men’s, women’s, accessories, jewelry and beauty, said, “When we look at fashion, there’s a lot of storytelling that goes on. Our job and my responsibility is to be the translator and curator. Taking what we’re seeing on the runways in London, New York, Milan and Paris, and making sure that that vision and the trend direction is translated for the Saks customer to experience.”
One of Patel’s goals is to make sure they’re making shopping at Saks a luxury and unique experience. “So when you come to Saks on Fifth Avenue, you want to spend the whole day there,” she said.
As for the most exciting trends in-store this spring, Patel said, “You’re seeing a prelude of what’s coming for fall. Everything from pops of neon, to tie-dye, that was all over Miuccia Prada’s runway…the return of leather. Designers brought leather back and are making it almost feel like a basic and utility dressing. We all love a great khaki and we all love a great chino.”
She said that when she comes back, there’s a lot to process. “I always need probably five or six days that I don’t see anything visual. I can’t. Then we start to talk. My team, every day. What were the big trends, what were the big takeaways? Tomorrow we have a trend presentation for 300 people [in creative at the store]. We start to think about ideas,” she said.
Right now, she said, she’s thinking about Lauren Hutton. She said she saw a lot of minimalism on the runways and a return to effortless dressing. She was also inspired by the glamour she saw in Paris. There was a lot of “sexy, Parisian chic,” she said. She said they start to compile the big trends and messages and figure out what they want to communicate when they lay out the book. “In the next three weeks, everything that you’ll see from social, digital and print in August and September all gets locked down. It’s not just women’s. I also oversee men’s. Out of everything I do, this is the part I love the most. This is where we get to really get creative and we get to be the translators [of what the designers showed],” she said.
Steele said the Museum at FIT has two exhibitions coming up that relate to these themes: May is “Minimalism/Maximalism” and in December, “Power Mode.”
Patel observed that what was interesting was the last few seasons, there was a lot of suiting on the runway as designers responded to the #MeToo movement. But now, she said, “You’re starting to see a shift. It’s OK to be sexy and it’s OK to wear something a little shorter.”
Finally, when Steele asked Patel to name several of the most important designers, over time and today, she gave a long list.
“There’s Miuccia Prada…and everybody’s watching Hedi Slimane at Celine, everybody’s watching what Phoebe Philo is doing, or not doing. Marc Jacobs delivered a magical collection….There’s Clare Waight Keller at Givenchy, Dries Van Noten. There’s just too many,” she said.