Saks Fifth Avenue Offers a Guys’ Night Out for Men Who Hate to Shop
Saks gathered 30 influential men—bankers, attorneys, commercial real estate agents, entrepreneurs—for a new kind of shopping experience.
Photos: James Charisma
Shopping can be tough during the holiday season, even for the man who has nearly everything. Saks Fifth Avenue might be able to help.
On a recent Thursday afternoon in Waikīkī, Saks gathered 30 influential men—bankers, attorneys, commercial real estate agents, entrepreneurs—for a new kind of shopping experience. Just beyond the main showroom on the third floor, a private back area was converted into a feast for the senses: pūpū to taste, drinks to enjoy, and cologne and perfume to smell.
Experts at the luxury department store gathered their top fragrances by Tom Ford, Bond, Creed and others to sample, pairing them with a mix of whiskey, rum, gin, prosecco and more. At nearly a half dozen little tables, lovely Saks ladies spritzed a sample card, spoke about each cologne or perfume, and guests took a whiff. Then, a sip from half-shot pours of the booze, before smelling again. With three to four sip-and-smell pairings per table, it could get hard to keep track of it all, but Saks provided handy flavor profile sheets with the name and producers of each fragrance as well as a short description, scent notes and the liquor or wine selected to match the smell.
These pairings went way beyond the basics of “red wine for meat, white wine for fish.” Alison at the Creed station said that professional perfumers—and drinkers, one would imagine—had taken pains to create perfect scent-spirit combinations.
Take a deep breath of Water Calligraphy, a cologne by Kilian with notes of citrus, jasmine, rose and orange blossom. Then have a sip of Tincup American Whiskey, with flavors of cinnamon and rye spice. Then exhale and feel all warm and fuzzy. Repeat about a dozen times and you get an idea of the evening.
Other noteworthy combinations included Creed’s Aventus, with notes of black currant leaves, birch and vanilla, paired with 7 Deadly Zins, Zinfandel that tastes of fruity raspberry jam, blackberry and molasses; and Bond’s Sutton Place, with notes of bergamot, rosemary, cumin and lavender, paired with Bols Barrel Aged Genever, a warm peachy and clove juniper. But the title winner: Tom Ford’s dark opulent Black Orchid fragrance, with notes of truffle and Ylang Ylang, paired with a 12-year Zaya rum. Wowza.
Colognes (as well as perfume, if any gents were looking to pick up a gift for the ladies in their lives) were available for purchase in the store.
“The focus was to get these prominent men exposed to Saks and to see our amenities,” says Saks vice president and general manager Shelley Cramer, who considers the event a success. “It’s also a way to help them understand that they don’t even have to come to Saks physically to make a purchase; we have personal private shoppers and can go to their office or home.” Fifth Avenue Club consultant Grant Nakashima had men asking right then and there about personal shopping. “Like this [Art of the Scent] event, we offer a tailored shopping experience for men and women. Making sure the customer is happy and treated well is everything for us here at Saks.”
The folks at Saks went all out for this exclusive event. And these colognes command such a high price that time should be taken to deliberate. For example, a single bottle of perfume from celebrated Los Angeles perfumery EB Florals runs $295 for a 100 ml bottle, or $495 for a 250 ml bottle. Or you could get a big candle of the stuff, promised to last 60 hours, for $70. This is for people serious about their smells.
If more than a dozen different pairings of booze and cologne wasn’t enough to quench the senses, there were two house cocktails, “Sir Grey” with Gun Club gin and “Smoking Hibiscus Rita” with mezcal and Aperol Aperitif, prepared by two gents from The Edge by Tamura’s, the new spot taking over the former Avenue’s Bar + Eatery in Kaimukī.
Speaking of food, there was food—unagi and California dragon roll sushi and spicy ‘ahi nigiri, cold-cut sandwiches and avocado egg rolls.
Why waste this fancy event with shopping and perfume and cocktails on men, I can hear someone from the peanut gallery asking. Smelling cologne and eating sushi isn’t exactly your traditional guy’s night out.
But it could be. “I normally shop at Wal-Mart,” one of the exclusively invited men confided to another, while sipping a whiskey and sniffing a fragrance card. “But I could get used to this.”
Saks is testing the waters with this one. But for men, who too often take no pleasure in shopping, who struggle with finding parking at the mall or wind up carrying all the family’s shopping bags, this type of event is an olive branch. Eat, drink, be merry—and maybe purchase something to make you smell good. Judging by the smiles and joking and backslapping seen the other night at Saks, we may have found something for the men after all.
READ MORE STORIES BY JAMES CHARISMA