As she greeted well-wishers at a champagne soiree in a high-rise loft space on New York's West Side, Karen Katz looked like she had just won the lottery. And the Neiman Marcus CEO had good reason to be grinning from ear to ear.
The legendary Dallas retailer recently announced its first New York store, to be located at the huge new Hudson Yards complex. To celebrate, Katz hosted a Fashion Week reception Friday night with Stephen M. Ross, chairman and founder of Related Companies, which is developing the project.
The party attracted top real estate titans, designers and retail officials. One sign that it was a tony crowd: Sleek black town cars lined the entrance to the building as drivers waited to pick up the VIPs at party's end.
CEO Karen Katz admitted she was "very skeptical" when developer Stephen Ross approached her with the idea for a Neiman Marcus in the Big Apple. "She thought we were nuts," Ross said.
Katz admitted she was "very skeptical" when Ross first approached her with the idea for a Neiman Marcus store in the Big Apple.
"She thought we were nuts," Ross interjected.
"But conversation after conversation, we became real believers," Katz said. "And, frankly, we can't believe we are putting a Neiman Marcus store here in Manhattan, in what we believe will be the second most extraordinary location in the city."
That comment drew chuckles from the crowd, as Katz was referring to "the beautiful" Bergdorf Goodman, the other crown jewel in the Neiman Marcus Group and New York retail fixture. It has long been believed that Neiman Marcus would never put a store in Manhattan because it may compete with Bergdorf Goodman.
But officials now think the timing is right for Neiman's, particularly with rivals like Nordstrom opening a store in Manhattan and Saks Fifth Avenue's plans for a second New York City location in Lower Manhattan. Also, one official pointed out, Neiman's carries brands like Tory Burch that Bergdorf's doesn't.
"We are now hooked up with the best retailer we believe in the world," said Related Companies president and CEO Ken Himmel. "For all of those who keep asking how is a Dallas-based firm going to execute a project in New York, we are looking at a leader with years and years of great experience in Bergdorf's.
"It's absolutely thrilling to be able to bring this kind of quality to the project. In a city that is known for only big and great things, we are taking that definition to a whole new level."
Guests sampled Southern delicacies like fried okra, deviled eggs and mini-hamburgers as they looked at a model of the new project and gazed out the windows of the 10th-floor loft space, which overlooks an empty lot where Hudson Yards will be built. The 250,000-square-foot store is planned to open in 2018 as part of the first phase of the mixed-use project.
Also joining in the celebration were Neiman Marcus president Jim Gold, fashion director Ken Downing, vice president of corporate communications Ginger Reeder, designers Lela Rose and Rachel Zoe, Alexander Wang president Rodrigo Bazan, Edie Parker founder and creative director Brett Heyman, Gucci North America president Christophe de Pous, and LMVH Perfumes & Cosmetics CEO Pamela Baxter.
The Bergdorf Goodman contingent included president Josh Schulman, fashion director Linda Fargo, and vice president and general manager John Capizzi — whom longtime Houstonians may remember as the manager of the Neiman Marcus Galleria store.