In step with the new "I'm Going to Saks" ad campaign, the catalog jump-starts with models in motion -- on scooters, in taxis, even on a pogo stick. This sets a bouncy, bright tone that carries throughout the catalog, even in the most luxurious settings.
Terron Schaefer, group senior vice president for creative and marketing, enthused about two particular sections: the opening pages and "(Don't) Mind Your Manners," a country-weekend fantasy with headline-making model Coco Rocha.
The transit idea came to Schaefer as he considered ways to bring energy and speed to the images. The models, including Karolina Kurkova and Caroline Trentini, gamely balanced on a skateboard or strapped on Rollerblades.
"When you work with a really super, über-star girl, you realize why they make so much money," laughs Schaefer. "Karolina would say, 'Let's try again, I think I can do it with more energy.' She didn't want to go home at night, she was so completely enthusiastic."
Rocha, meanwhile, romps around a lush garden in tweeds, plaids, and woven-leather purses. While the wrought-iron gates, statuary, and box hedges suggest a grand manor, cheeky suggestions like "Definitely don't act your age," along with Rocha's grin, lighten the mood.
The catalog devotes special segments to several major fall trends, including lady bags, statement coats, and furs both real and faux. Schaefer points out leather's star turn: "How leather is being manipulated is really extraordinary -- it can look like lace."
A few up-and-coming designers get splashy introductions, with feature pages explaining their signature looks.
The first spotlight swings to Reed Krakoff, the executive creative director of Coach who recently launched his own namesake clothing and accessories line. The profile selects his military-inspired coat and tall boots as examples of Krakoff's warmly minimal style. Saks will carry his fall collection exclusively.
As you dig further into the catalog, the uptown-luxury look turns to downtown flashiness. Models with long, honey-blond waves give way to a girl with close-cropped bleached hair. A "red carpet" story has a paparazzi feel; tabloid-style headlines race across the pages.
Schaefer says the shift is carefully calibrated to infuse autumn's polished clothes with fun and humor.
Reflecting the company's recent expansion of its plus-size selection, there are also a few pages for sizes 14 and up showing graceful ruffled tops.
The catalog closes with Uma Thurman, the 2010 ambassador for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, modeling this year's Key to the Cure shirt. Donna Karan designed the painterly limited-edition tee, which will be on sale exclusively at Saks starting Oct. 1.
Read on for more behind-the-scenes info on fall's top catalogs.