As a novelist, screenwriter and producer, great stories excite and inspire Amy Ephron the most — her love of Saks Fifth Avenue comes a close second, but not by far. In her new book, Loose Diamonds: …and other things I’ve lost (and found) along the way, Ephron muses on her most memorable trips to Saks and the impact they left on her. Here, Saks POV excerpts Ephron’s essay, “I Love Saks”.
“I Love Saks”
By Amy Ephron
In a way, I think, I can tell my life by Saks, in the way that I could tell my life by tuna fish sandwiches or the occasions on which I’ve run into Shelley Steinberg (my best friend from eighth grade), who later became Shelley Kirkwood and then became Shelley Cooper, if you know what I mean — that Saks for me is a funny bookend, like an old friend that’s always been there, sometimes worn at the edges, a little fractious, but just by its very existence, a haven nonetheless.
The smell of fresh pressed powder (or the memory of the smell of fresh pressed powder), French hand-milled soap, eau de cologne mixed in with the scent of the softest leather from gloves that have never before been worn. Deco glass display cases filled with make-up (Chanel, La Prairie, and hipper brands like MAC and something Japanese I’d never heard of called, Kanebo); designer sunglasses by the yard; a hat department with wool caps and posher ones with lace and feathers; and an old-fashioned glove bar, all lengths and sizes; scarves, silk ones from Hermès and Armani, cashmere ones with and wool; purses; belts; and that’s only the first floor.
Saks Fifth Avenue. The flagship store on Fifth Avenue between Forty-Ninth and Fiftieth Streets.
The first time I went to New York, when I was eight, my mother took me to Saks to buy a hat so that we could march in the Easter Parade.
Six years later, she took me to Saks and bought me (to ease the fact that my parents were so dysfunctional my only permanent address was going to be a boarding schoolin Woodstock, Vermont, where the temperature was regularly 30 below in winter) a truly extraordinary Julie Christie/Dr. Zhivago coat, the color of calfskin, shearling, long to mid-calf .
A few years later, I was having a really bad day, some version of a broken heart, and I left work. It was raining and there weren’t any cabs. I’d been invited to a party in midtown and instead of crying, I ducked into Saks and changed, right there in the dressing room, out of the jeans and t-shirt I was wearing, into a skirt, sweater and new boots and stopped on the way out where the incredibly kind and beautiful Edith Ajubel, the manager at the Chanel counter, redid my make-up so I looked fresh and together and ready for whatever happened next.
Four years after that, I popped into Saks on my way to lunch (with a new editor at a new publishing company, to whom I was going to tell a new book idea) to buy a black silk cashmere TSE sweater using a form of girl logic that if I had a new sweater, I wouldn’t look like I actually needed the money. It worked.
Any time I’m in New York I stop in, not always to shop, but just to sit in the café at a table alone and order a lemonade because, in a way, it’s like touching home base, a sturdy companion in a world that’s sometimes sad or upside down and, for me, it’s like a touchstone.
And I love Saks because it’s still there, and it’s weathered more than one economic downturn and double-digit numbers of skirt lengths, and it still has saleswomen (and salesmen) who are actually helpful, who will actually take a walk with you through the store across departments — “Let’s see if we can find some shoes to go with that dress. Do you need that in a bigger size? Let me see if I can get it for you at another store and have it sent.” But mostly I love Saks because it has a history and an elegance that is a throwback to a kinder, gentler time and, for me, it’s like a wall (or the memory of a wall) left standing, even though the family home is gone, with pencil marks traced on it, one on top of the other, every time I grew an inch.
Excerpted from Loose Diamonds: …and other things I’ve lost (and found) along the way
By Amy Ephron (William Morrow; September 2011)
© Amy Ephron 2011, all rights reserved
Reprinted by permission of William Morrow and Amy Ephron