St. John

 

Today´s theme is: What I Was Not Expecting.


Some of you must be familiar with the St. John clothing line, of the expensive knit suits and other pricey wear. The Big Cheese´s mother liked St. John, and I wound up with a couple of lovely things. For years the line was modeled in ads by a woman, Kelly Gray, who I´m pretty sure is the daughter of Marie Gray, the woman behind the company. Kelly was not (IMO) model-fabulous looking but in her own slick, tanned, bleach-blond way fit the image – and does any one else remember those fabulously wacky ads? I found one, which I dropped in here to the left. They were always the same: Kelly surrounded by half-naked hot guys in some exotic locale. I never quite got the message (come here, pool boys, and service me?) but they were fun to look at.

Anyway, now they´ve got Angelina Jolie up top there on the job, Kelly presumably having aged out, and – let´s face it – Angie adds something to the line. Angelina Jolie could, of course, make a feed sack look alluring, but I think she´s gorgeous, and the other thing I love about her modeling is – hey – she´s a grown woman. A woman with an impossibly, freakishly gorgeous face and killer bod, but a fully grown woman with hips and lips and boobs and more gravitas in her look than most of the very young girls modeling these days. Maybe having her as their model was an attempt to garner some new, possibly younger interest, although it didn´t seem to me that anything much changed about the clothes themselves. (In addition to the Kelly Gray ad here is a photo of a St John suit and some pictures of Angie, so you all can see what I´m babbling about if you don’t know.)

My St. John blazer looks a lot like my Adolfo knit blazer – reminiscent of Nancy Reagan and lunch at the club, although I like to wear it with jeans. What are you expecting, perfume-wise, from a company with those clothes? I was expecting something vaguely Chanel-ish – something between Cristalle and 22, maybe. Something a little sour and a little sweet and reasonably grown up. Alternately, it might smell even more tightly wound – like 24, Faubourg, or Judith Leiber – fragrances that smell of rich women and which convey, essentially: Talk To The Hand.

Instead, what I got is a sweet confection that smells distinctly (disturbingly?) similar to a hybrid of By Kilian´s marshmallow number and that ridiculous Oscar Fresh Vanilla thing I blogged on not too long ago, only without the fun toasted bits. You could throw a little jasmine in there too. I can´t find any notes at all, but it is I think some sort of idealized white flower. Or breakfast cereal. Cashmere Froot Loops? Dubble Bubble gum and tennis? Diva insists it smells like bubble gum and says she can´t decide if she loves it or hates it, if that helps at all. I don´t know whether this is a reissue of their (discontinued?) gardenia scent I found while looking for notes online; I guess it could be. But it smells more modern – less Liz Taylor, more Liz Tyler. It smells very 2008 in that gourmet marshmallow latte way that I’m thinking is going to smell dated a few years from now.

I´m kind of fascinated by St. John the fragrance. It´s not bad; if I smelled it Sephora, and they had a mini, I might buy it. It´s a mindless, throw-it-on gourmand little thing, decent lasting power, relatively close to the skin. Spray it all over at your peril, but really – on my wrist? Kind of cheerful. But it just seems so … wrong. It doesn´t smell like money. It doesn´t smell sexy, and Angie looks to me like she’s selling both. It doesn´t smell “old lady” but it doesn´t smell particularly young either. Finally, it doesn´t smell finished. If you´re a St. John customer, then by God you want a finished product – probably adorned with some really nice buttons and maybe even some interesting braid, and I don´t mean that in a snotty way. Even their looser clothes feel tailored to me – less flirty than Escada, but very done. Polished. Blown dry, waxed and buffed. This thing feels like the start of an interesting idea, not the stuff you put in a bottle. But what do I know? Maybe it will sell like hotcakes to women who want a piece of the legend but can´t afford the clothes.

  • Shelley says:

    Hmm. I was thinking of how to describe my bi-polar Angelina reaction…sometimes, I find her breathtakingly beautiful, and other times, I want somebody to gently pack her in gentle cushions until she’s had enough to eat to rejoin the functioning human bodies…

    Then it hit me; you could describe it as: She’s stunning when she’s shot, she’s alarming when she’s “caught.”

    (Which might rather describe how some of the bottle/review lusters who post here feel about some of the scents on their shelves, no?) 😕

    😉

    BTW, karmically speaking, I feel compelled to mention that I wish her all the best with the new babies.

    • March says:

      Angelina made me roll my eyes in the Billy Bob vial-of-blood phase, but she seems to have grown up nicely. I saw some photos of her when she was 16 or so in some trashy mag recently, and even then you got a sense of how lovely she was going to be, but she wasn’t there yet. It’s interesting — Brooke Shields was freakishly gorgeous as a teen, and as an adult she was a very pretty woman. I feel like Angie gets lovelier as she gets older. And I wish her well too with those babies. Twins are hard.

      • Shelley says:

        Yeah, I’ve had similar thoughts about her “youth,” too–she happened to live her young explorations quite publicly, but it all seemed rather in keeping with a certain type of early adulthood. And I also think she is gaining beauty as she gets older. My mom had a friend like that; when she got to 50, she was stunning. And still is.

  • violetnoir says:

    Geez…that’s, well, sad. The fragrance feels unfinished? Really sad.

    I will skip this one, March.

    Belated Happy Birthday to you, my friend!

    Hugs!

  • Robin says:

    It is supposed to be a relaunch but I’m sure they tweaked it. I smelled it very quickly last week and had less trouble deciding than Diva, LOL — but perhaps I should have risked trying it on skin 🙂

    • March says:

      R, I totally agree with you — whether or not they’re calling it a “relaunch” it smells very of the moment. There is NO WAY it smelled like that 20 years ago or what have you. So, it’s of the moment, but not of St. John’s moment. And it sounds like you weren’t loving it!? /:)

      • Robin says:

        March, it was so entirely “of the moment” that I’ve already forgotten what it smelled like (in other words, it smelled like everyone else). But admittedly I did not give it my full attention.

        • Robin says:

          And just in case you care: it launched in 94, and here is the description from WWD:

          The fragrance itself is a floral-oriental, with a “fresh, modern top note,” Fusilier said. “The heart of the fragrance is ‘night-blooming florals’ — jasmine, moonflower and gardenia.

          “The era of loud fragrances is over,” he continued. “This is meant to be a very intimate and personal product.”

          And then in 98 they launched a 2nd scent called White Camellia. As near as I can tell, that’s all they did.

        • March says:

          Froot Loops! And thanks for the list of notes. Frankly, that sounds more sophisticated than what I smelled … and I cannot find A SINGLE THING about this launch, can you? Interesting. Are they burying it? Have they already decided they’ve made a terrible mistake? Can’t find a single ad, etc.

          • Robin says:

            I haven’t really looked, but it’s presumably in “soft launch” and we’ll see something about it eventually…

  • Kim says:

    Concur with Nava – would love a wardrobe of St John and Max Mara!! I loved the new ad campaign with Angie Jolie – thought it really brought the line out of the 80’s where it seemed stuck. I never used to like St John – too 80’s – but recently they seem to have updated some of their designing and are more tailored, less adorned, more to my taste. Some of the fall stuff is downright stunning! Which is where I think they have gone wrong with the scent – you’re right March, stunning clothes should have a stunning perfume and cashmere fruit loops doesn’t qualify!!

    As for Ms. Jolie’s stick arms, I come from a family of sticks, except I didn’t get the stick genes. So I am always astounded at how everyone else can eat normally and stay like sticks, but not me!! Plus I am sure Angie works out a ton! So stick genes + mega workouts = model thin ! It’s how she makes her $$$$$$$$

    • March says:

      According to Robin (below) somewhere they’re calling it a relaunch of the original scent, to which I say: no way. This should have been 20 years older. And my guess is the St. John customers are going to reject it the same way they rejected Angelina.

      Her arms have never freaked me out quite like they have some people, maybe because they’re muscled rather than just super-thin and flaccid. But I think she looks her best 6 months pregnant! And with the twins she has been radiant.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Reading and commenting a bit late, but I couldn’t resist saying that everyone looks better pregnant. 😡 Rubenesque, to be sure, but also glowing, sexy, and most importantly, happy! But even pregnant, Angelina makes me want to force feed her Haagen Dazs. And I can’t figure out how she can have boobs that great and be that skinny. Oh wait, yes I can. Yeah, it’s late and I’m cranky.

        I think I’ll skip the St. John, too. Sounds kind of uninspiring, if inoffensive. 😉

  • Hope you had a great birhday! Obviously your family dotes on you.

    I distinctly recall the St.John ads (especially with Kelly Gray which seemed like remnants from the 80s) for two reasons:
    1)the clothes looked like something WASP women would want to wear in the club meetings (despite the semi-nude pool boys)
    2)the clothes were remarably close to the Escada aesthetic!

    Angelina definitely gives an edge to the campaign (and who can argue on gorgeousness?) but somehow the clothes do not look like something she would pick herself! Apart from the dress you demonstrated here, maybe… There is a “done” image, like you noticed, very “tailored”. 😕

    Now, about the fragrance: Of course I haven’t tried it (and now I am never going to, LOL ), but in light of their similarity to Escada en masse, does it really come as any surprise?:-j

    • March says:

      You are right, as lovely as Angelina looks in those clothes, they don’t look like something she would ever choose. And maybe that’s ultimately part of the flawed choice of her as their face — she’s too known in a different way. One doesn’t envision her ever choosing to wear St. John in her private life.

      I agree I think you can safely skip the fragrance, in any case. It doesn’t sound much like you, does it? [-(

  • moi says:

    Sounds like St. John’s perfume is reflecting its image crisis. I could care less about the clothing because I can’t afford it and would only maybe wear one of their über fab black cashmere sweaters if I could, but I do miss the old, totally whack ads.

    After retiring Kelly, prez Richard Cohen managed to estrange the rest of the Gray family, and embarked on a campaign to lighten things up, first hiring Giselle Bundschen then Angelina Jolie, in a move that prompted the NY Times to quip regarding the gulf between Kelly and La Jolie: “What’s the difference between an imaginary man-eater and a humanitarian man-eater?” To me, Jolie was always too hot house gorgeous for the line’s cool, waspy vibe. It was so obvious what the line was trying to do. And now, she’s on her way out. After hearing your remarks on the perfume, I expect the new face might be even more nubile, maybe Scarlett Johansson or one of her kind.

    • March says:

      Thanks for the info — and you made me feel better, I *thought* there was another face for the brand after Kelly but couldn’t find anything, so now I know I’m not losing it. Gisele seems like a better fit than Angelina, but maybe they need someone older and more normal looking.

      And given Musette’s comment up there about dissatisfied customers, if they pick hot young Scarlett the customers will be brandishing their clubs and pitchforks.

  • Nava says:

    March,

    I hate to burst your Angie bubble, but I recall reading someplace online that she is no longer going to be in ads for St. John. People.com, maybe? I do agree with you that when she’s not Skeletor, she’s pretty fabulous looking.

    As for the scent, I also recall there being a previous incarnation, and the Kelly Gray ads are very 80s Vogue to me. The one you sniffed perked my nose up – By Kilian Love and Cashmere Froot Loops? I need to investigate further.

    As for the clothes, I would love me a wardrobe of nothing but St. John, MaxMara and a few Escada gowns just in case the odd red carpet event “needed” attending. :d

    • March says:

      Oh, that’s fascinating! I wonder if she was a disaster for the line? Or whether she moved on? (She can’t need the money at this point.) I *think* in the second photo up there where she’s holding her shoes she is reasonably pregnant, and look how normal her arm looks! 😉

      Of all the designer stuff I’ve wound up with, Escada and YSL impress me the most. Escada has that dark navy blue that slays. And the YSL tailoring is astonishing, and a couple of my inherited YSL dresses are NAUGHTY! You put it on and realize large bits of it are see through, with tastefully deployed liners… I tease the Cheese, did you know your mom went out in public like this?!?

      • Nava says:

        I recall seeing her on “The Daily Show” about a year ago and commenting to my husband that she needed to be strapped down and force-fed some lard. Her arms were literally toothpicks.

        If the Cheese’s mom is in the same generation as mine (she’d have been 80 this year), those tastefully sheer numbers were all the rage. I remember my dad frowning at a few that my mom wore. He was a bit on the conservative side. 😡

  • Divalano says:

    hahahaha Cashmere Fruit Loops hee hee hee snicker

    ahem

    Angie seems like an odd choice for the line to me. I always looked at the ads & thought, wow that’s a bit suburban & uptight. Maybe they want people like me to quit thinking that? I used to think that about Burberry & look at their ads now. I’ve even found myself hankering after some of it.

    I think gourmet marshmallow latte Cashmere Fruit Loops would probably be a disaster on me, I will steer clear 😉

    • March says:

      Burberry and Coach have definitely redefined themselves as younger. Burberry has a lot of the same product and jazzed up their ads; Coach changed pretty much everything. I did a (very quick) stroll through the St. John section after smelling the fragrance, trying to figure out if their look had drastically changed, and it has not. Angie’s wearing some of the sexier pieces, and she wears them like Angie as opposed to the rest of us!

      The Burberry thing amuses me because, with their marketing, Diva looks at a Burberry tote and says, cuuuute! I look at that stupid plaid and think: frump. Which is where it sat in my mind for decades — the lining of a stockbroker’s trench coat.

    • Musette says:

      I’d heard they were discontinuing Ms Jolie because the women who actually buy the line can’t really relate to her and are complaining and when women who spend upwards of $50K a year on your clothes start to complain….well…one listens, I suppose (this is from a fashionista friend who may or may not know of what she speaks).

      Your description of the juice is hysterical. Cashmere Fruit Loops!=)) I would think a more Doblis-like scent would be their direction…

      I admit to loving that whole Ladies who Lunch Look(absurd, given my lifestyle) and lusted after this season’s white St. John suit with gold-circles on the jacket collar and cuffs…then I saw it in person. Cheap-ola.

      Last thing…I loved Kelly Gray in those ads. She was pretty enough to be pretty but not model-pretty, which always caused me to look a 2nd or even 3rd time, trying to figure out what was different about the ad. The art direction was always over the top and silly, which was fun.

      • March says:

        Well, there you have it. Confirmation. Women who can afford this stuff not wanting to see La Jolie as the brand rep… I totally agree with you about Kelly. She was certainly pretty, but normal looking, like someone you might meet, which made her stand on the pages of the magazines.

  • Elle says:

    Cashmere Fruit Loops – love that! 🙂 Had no idea there was a new St. John scent out. Will have to sniff it just to see what they’ve done. Blessedly, doesn’t sound like my wallet will have to be accompanying me on that sniffing trip.

    • March says:

      You’ve already filled the breakfast cereal spot in your lineup? Lann-Ael? 😉

      I’d love your opinion. Seriously, it wasn’t terrible. I keep pondering: if it had been in, say, the Covet bottle, or Gwen Stefani, would I have liked it better? Probably. 😕

  • Louise says:

    I just happened to pass by the St. John at Nordies the other day, and was pleased, too, to see Angie the Amazing as their new “face”. While I admired Kelly, I just couldn’t relate to the chilly look (though the lads help warm things up). Seeing pics of Angela now pregnant with twins (in the tabloids, of course) has reminded me how lovely she looks with some meat on.

    But-yech, the scent was nasty. I don’t think I’d even buy the mini.

    I do recall a St. John fragrance from maybe a decade or so back-and thinking it was quite sophisticated…am I hallucinating again 8-} ? Anyone else? Anyone?

    • Elle says:

      If you’re hallucinating, then we’re taking the same drugs. I remember it as well, but didn’t think it was remarkable enough to make it beyond in store sampling. And it was definitely on the sophisticated side and matched the no hair out of place, charity event circuit feel of the clothes.

      • March says:

        Um, then this is definitely a different scent! And as I noted to Louise, there was at least one (maybe two) earlier scents, both of which I assume were d/c’d. I had never heard of them.

    • March says:

      Hah, so you smelled it too!! Seriously, whatever you thought it might smell like — that was definitely not it, right? I actually looked at the bottle again in my hand, thinking I must somehow have idiotically picked the wrong thing up! 🙂

      Looking at the notes for this one, there was definitely one (and possibly two) earlier scents. There was a St. John, and one that smelled like gardenia, but I’m unclear whether they were the same scent, as most of the listers don’t have photos of the bottle.

  • vida says:

    hmmmm. and where might one find said St. John the Fragrance? Need-less Markup? Nordies? Would love to try it, hoping it might at least be interesting. As for their clothing line, as much as I love it, it does nothing for my rather hourglassish figure… And as much as I love the quirky eccentric Angelina, I wish she weren’t so cachectic and emaciated. She needs to be fed a decent meal. I much prefer her enhanced but healthy Laura Croft look! (or even her golden sleek be-heeled nekkidness in Beowolf)

    • March says:

      I ran into it at Nordstrom. And I agree that Angie can get way, WAY too thin. She looks best when she is pregnant, at which point her face and those skinny arms fill out. Pregnant with twins, she (unlike the rest of humanity) looks stunning, although I think at this pt she’s basically gone into seclusion. And why do I know all this? :”>

  • tmp00 says:

    I kind of miss the days of Kelly (who is the daughter btw). Those ads were so over the top in a cool blonde way. Don’t know about the fragrance though..