St. John (clothing)
|Founder||Robert Gray and Marie Gray|
|Headquarters||Irvine, California, United States|
|Products||Womenswear, Perfume, Jewelery, Fashion accessory|
Number of employees
St. John Knits International Inc., commonly referred as St. John, is an upscale American fashion brand that specializes in women's knitwear founded in 1962 by Robert and Marie Gray. The company is best known for its classic wool and rayon yarn knits, Chanel inspired jackets, and extensive use of primary colors.
St. John was founded in 1963 by former model Marie St John and her husband Robert Gray. While working in Los Angeles as a model, St John hand knit simple straight knit skirts and matching short sleeved tops for her own use. Her designs proved popular among her fellow models and she began designing and producing samples. Her fiancé at the time, Robert Gray, showed the designs to local retailer Bullocks who ordered 84 dresses. St John and Gray hired their mothers and another knitter and quickly set about production. The couple, now married, divided duties over the fledgling Irvine, CA business. St John designed the clothes and oversaw production while Gray handled the marketing and sales. Their collections included tailored suits and dresses as well as casual sportswear.
In 1990, Escada, formed by another husband and wife team Margaretha and Wolfgang Ley, purchased an 80% stake in St John Knits for $45 million. St John Knits used the funding to launch its own boutique stores. St John became a publicly owned company in 1993, with St John and Gray retaining 20% of the company. St John continued to manage the creative direction of the company while Gray served as CEO and Chairman of the Board. Their daughter, Kelly Gray, was appointed President of the company in 1996, ascending to the CEO position after her father's retirement in 2002. The Grays left St John Knits in 2005 when the company was purchased by a private equity firm. The pair were brought back only two years later as creative consultants after a series of disappointing collections and declining sales.
The original face of the brand was model Kelly Gray, the daughter of the founders. Following Gray, supermodel Gisele Bündchen became the new face of St. John in 2005. Beginning in 2005, Angelina Jolie became the face and spokeswoman for St. John. The campaigns were all shot by Mario Testino. In 2010, St. John announced that they were replacing Jolie with British supermodel and musician Karen Elson after her three-year campaign as the face of the company, because Jolie's fame had "overshadowed the brand." In 2011, Kate Winslet was named the face of St John, a position she continues to hold as of 2015.
″St. John Knits' carved a lasting place for itself in the business world by selling to large, established retailers such as Jacobson's and Lord & Taylor, cultivating a relationship that would propel its growth for decades. Underpinning its respected standing among retailers were the company's distinctive lines of clothing, which began to attract a devout clientele drawn to Marie St. John's classically conservative fashion style. As one retail consultant explained, "For ladies who lunch, a St. John knit is almost like a uniform, a status symbol," which neatly described the company's typical retail customer and conveyed the essence of the clothes' success: generations of women made the inclusion of a St. John knit in their wardrobe a must.″ A St. John's garment can be identified by its knit-in hem (most companies use sewn-in hems) and the tightly woven wool and rayon double knit fabric developed by Marie St John in 1962. The St. John Sport line contains more on trend styles.
St. John today
Headquartered in Irvine, California, the brand has its collections and styles sold in specialty stores in 29 countries and 27 company-owned retail boutiques in the United States. The company has an estimated 1,300 employees and 2010 sales of $325 million.
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- Antilla, Susan (September 12, 1993). "Wall Street; The Gray Family's Rewarding I.P.O.". New York Times.
- Earnest, Leslie (October 15, 2002). "Kelly Gray to Succeed Dad as CEO of St. John Knits". Los Angeles Times.
- Magsaysay, Melissa (May 6, 2007). "Long Live the Queen". Los Angeles Times.
- Wilson, Eric (May 25, 2006). "Act Your Age, St. John". New York Times.
- "Kate Winslet Really Does Love St John". Elle.com. Elle Magazine.
- International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 14. St. James Press, 1996.
- Weisburg, Emily (June 6, 2011). "Apparel Companies". Orange County Business Journal. 34 (23): 30.