For this season, we believe in gold," says Arlene Goldstein.
As if to illustrate -- or illuminate -- her point, she is wearing dangly gold earrings and a beautiful golden cuff bracelet that winks under the Parisian store's bright light fixtures.
Goldstein is the fashion director for Parisian, the newest addition to the Memphis department-store family. Part of her job is forecasting color and style trends for men's and women's wear. It's little more than a week before the store opens in Carriage Crossing in Collierville, and Goldstein is in town to help educate the staff.
"All the associates get training on the products," says Goldstein. "Buyers come from corporate to teach them so we get professional sales associates who make shopping not only fun but expeditious."
For now, the store is a combination of beauty and chaos. Cardboard boxes are stacked nose-high on the sales floor, but the make-up counters gleam in pure white and sparkling silver. In the shoe department, boots in rich fall colors are already on display. Unclad white mannequins stand guard near the aisles; baby strollers are lined up by the glass doors. In almost every one of the store's 130,000 square feet, denim-clad workers are unloading boxes or moving display fixtures.
The Parisian store opening is big business. And it's celebrating its debut in style with a grand-opening gala, a preview shopping day, and what seems like a hundred special designer events and trunk shows.
The Saks company, which owns Parisian, bills the Memphis facility as its store of the future. And the company is building similar facilities in Little Rock and its home base of Birmingham.
"We have a restaurant that opens onto the street and a golf shop with a putting green and plasma screens. It's interactive," says Goldstein. "Architecturally, there are wide aisles, special lighting, comfortable seating areas, and high ceilings."
There is also a manicure bar where shoppers can get their nails done and a stunning array of in-store shops, including Memphis' own Boulevard and the first U.S. location for British fave label Jigsaw.
Because it really is all about the clothes, says Goldstein.
"It's a unique blend of stylish merchandise and special things so you don't see [others dressed like you] coming and going," says Goldstein. "Our buyers know how to cherry-pick from a large assortment and get the very best."
Goldstein was once an elementary-school teacher, but after a friend asked her to do a wardrobe-planning course for working women, she started thinking fashion. She was a Parisian customer and decided to call a friend at the company, who put her in touch with the company's human resources department.
"I was told, 'Sometimes our favorite customers want to cross over and work for us, but it usually doesn't work.' I guess, in my case, it did," Goldstein says.
Now, instead of teaching reading or math, she teaches must-haves. Each season, she picks 10 items that serious shoppers -- and not so serious ones -- need to own to be in style. The list is usually posted in the store.
"We'd all like to clean out our closets at the beginning of each season and start over, but that's not in the cards for everybody," she says. "Instead, you just get the must-haves."
Goldstein says Parisian wants to be synonymous with fashion and service. Like many boutiques, associates will keep client lists, alerting their customers to upcoming sales and promotions and new items they think they might like. Customers who see an item they want -- but can't find their color or size -- will also get high-tech help. Associates will find the item with a new company-wide product locator system.
"We think we're on trend without being intimidating. We're inviting," says Goldstein. "It's about helping you with your own sense of style and doing it your way."
Goldstein's and Parisian's Must-Haves for Fall 2005:
• A Little Jacket in Velvet, Corduroy, or Tweed
This form-fitting jacket should be able to work at the office or on the weekends. And texture is important.
"We feel very bullish about velvet, anything in velvet, but especially the velvet jacket," says Goldstein.
• Long, Layered Necklaces
The more strands at the neck, the better. Try vintage, tribal, or bohemian styles, especially those with natural elements such as wood and semiprecious stones. And don't forget gold, gold, and more gold.
• Skirts With Volume
If the jacket is the smaller the better, the skirt is just the opposite. Ruffles are huge.
• An Extraordinary Sweater
Cowl necks, cocoon shapes, and cashmere are this season's classics.
• A Feminine Top
"We're very knit-oriented," says Goldstein. "You can wear it paired with jeans or a slim skirt, but we think the blouse is back big-time."
Extra girl points for lace and ruffles.
• The New Hobo Bag
The one bag that just might be able to hold all your stuff. The best bags are in metallics, snakeskin, or suede.
• The Cropped Pant
"With the fitted jackets and the cropped pants, we're into very short subjects this season," says Goldstein. "My sister recently tried on a jacket and my mother thought it was too small. We're just not used to wearing things so close to the body."
In terms of cropped pants, options abound. Look for ones that hit knee-length, mid-calf, or just above the ankle.
• Something Fur
Don't worry, it doesn't have to be real. But fur -- whether on a collar or as an entire piece -- adds sumptuousness to the season.
• A Chic Suit
"Things got very casual for a while, but now they're swinging back," says Goldstein. Suits should be tailored, but to your personal style.
• The Western Boot
Paired with a voluminous skirt, it's instant bohemian.
• And a Bonus ...
"Something that's not on the list but
probably should be is the belt," says Goldstein. "The belt is back. I was just in Europe, and everyone was wearing a belt. I thought, I didn't get the memo or I would have had a cute belt on."
Consider this your memo.