I Entered ‘The Vault’ at Saks Fifth Avenue

EditorsSep 16, 2019

I Entered ‘The Vault’ at Saks Fifth Avenue

Associate Editor Lenore Fedow ventured into the retailer’s new space dedicated to high jewelry and timepieces.

Saks Fifth Avenue opened “The Vault” earlier this month, which features six jewelry shop-in-shops and eight watch boutiques, at its New York City flagship store.

Saks Fifth Avenue opened “The Vault” earlier this month, a space dedicated to high jewelry and watches on the lower level of its New York City flagship store.

I wrote about the opening, looked through press photos and remarked to my fellow editors how much I’d love to see it in person.

Our Editor-In-Chief Michelle Graff suggested I venture into The Vault and write a blog post about my visit. And so with my boss’ blessing to go shopping on the job, I hopped on an uptown 5 train and headed to Saks.

You can’t miss The Vault upon entering the store—a rainbow, fluorescent-colored escalator, created by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, beckons shoppers to head downstairs.

It felt exclusive as soon as I set foot on the shimmering gray floor; The Vault is spacious and elegant, a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of upstairs.

Perhaps it was because I stopped by in the late afternoon on a Thursday, but there were only a handful of people mulling around.

It had the air of a museum, with visitors walking around at a leisurely pace, speaking in hushed tones with their hands behind their backs, staring in reverence, careful not to put any fingerprints on the showcase glass.

I started at the back and worked my way around counterclockwise, stepping into each of the shops.

There are six fine jewelry shop-in-shops in the space: Boucheron, Chanel, Chopard, Graff, Piaget and Repossi.

Eight watch brands are in The Vault as well: Baume & Mercier, Franck Muller, Hermès, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Roger Dubuis, TAG Heuer and Vacheron Constantin.

My first stop was Piaget. There was no one in the boutique, but it wasn’t long before an employee stopped in to see if I needed any help.

When I told her I was just looking around (unfortunately), she smiled and told me her name and where she would be if I needed any help. I was approached only once, left to walk around the rest of the shops undisturbed, which I appreciated.

The security measures were discrete but present, as serious-looking men in suits walked circled the space slowly.

Just to be sure, I asked a nearby employee if it was alright to take photos and I received an enthusiastic “yes!”

It’s hard to imagine stores telling anyone they aren’t allowed to take pictures in the age when sharing on social media is such a big part of driving interest.

I took my

phone out to snap a few photos and noticed fellow shoppers doing the same.

Chopard’s shop was blocked off and appeared to still be under construction, but its merchandise was featured in adjacent showcases, a pair of silky gloves sitting on a nearby table to keep the jewelry smudge free.

Jewelry showcases sit near the middle of the space, featuring Bulgari’s Serpenti watches as well as one-of-a-kind pieces from Assael, Oscar Heyman, Piranesi, and Martin Katz.

The candy-colored jewelry from Nini Jewels stood out to me, especially an 18-karat yellow gold nine-row “Birdcage” cuff featuring tanzanite, peridot, rubellite, citrine and diamonds.

Nini Jewels’ one-of-a-kind “Birdcage” bracelet (far left, $150,000)

It looks like it belongs in the jewelry box of an eccentric socialite who’s dripping in over- the-top jewels and old money. I just love it.

Tiffany & Co. is the first special guest to take over The Vault’s exhibition space, displaying stunning pieces from its “Paper Flowers” collection and other show-stopping diamond jewelry on a Tiffany Blue background (of course).

The exhibition space has been set aside to feature brand partners, guest curators, special collaborations and other events.

There was a seating area with luxe couches perfect for people watching, though there weren’t too many shoppers lingering the day I visited.

As I toured The Vault, I thought to myself how spoiled I’ve become by how often I come in contact with expensive jewelry, playing dress up with diamonds and gems I’d never have access to in any other line of work. At the next showcase, I lingered a little longer and looked a little closer.

When I was done downstairs, I decided to head to the second floor to Saks’ original jewelry department, which I also found to be sparsely staffed and quiet.

The shops on the second level included jewelry from Vhernier, David Webb, Zydo and Anita Ko. Chopard has a shop on the second level as well.

The stores here seemed a bit more low-key and the showcases were closer together in a smaller space.

I felt more comfortable upstairs than in The Vault, more like I was shopping and less like I was at a museum.

I exited the jewelry department and made my way upstairs, walking around a few floors of women’s fashion before popping into the out-of-this-world shoe section, both of which were much livelier than the jewelry departments.

Shoppers balanced armfuls of clothes and employees walked back and forth with stacks of shoes, a welcome change to the quiet.

While in the elevator heading out, I noticed the fancy escalator is the only way to get to The Vault; the elevators won’t take you down to that level.

I had passed a few signs for The Vault during my visit, but the elevator ads seemed more focused on telling shoppers about the pop-up Magnum ice cream bar on the fifth floor.

I had walked by the bar earlier, and the customers there had looked overjoyed to hand over $8 plus tax for a customized ice cream bar, selecting the type of chocolate and toppings they wanted.

The toppings selection included unicorn gems, mermaid pearls, salted caramel crisp pearls and gold glitter confetti, a nod to the fall trends of “bold metals and larger-than-life gemstones,” according to the pop-up shop’s event page.

A group of friends gathered for photos with their ice cream bars, posing for “candid” shots as they took bites.

They looked like they were having more fun than anyone else in the store. The ice cream bar was an experience to share with friends, a reason to come to Saks rather than other stores lining Fifth Avenue.

The Vault is quiet, for now, but with its beautiful, Instagram friendly design, it has the potential to draw the same level of excitement as the Magnum station.

Not everyone who enters Saks is going to take the escalator ride downstairs and drop a million dollars on a sapphire necklace.

However, I can envision The Vault as an events space, hosting talks and panels with celebrities and fashion royalty, or bringing in designers for trunk shows, thereby generating more excitement and foot traffic for the jewelry department and the department store in general.

I look forward to seeing what events and special guests Saks has up its sleeves.
Lenore Fedowis the associate editor, news at National Jeweler, covering the retail beat and the business side of jewelry.

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