In the Lobbies: Ritz-Carlton Draws a Crowd With Furs and Not-Quite-Free Makeup

By Ted Kruckel January 20, 2009, 1:06 PM EST

Saks Fifth Avenue threw open its doors for the inaugural weekend at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel just north of Georgetown. The retailer decided to face the cold head on, with an entire lobby filled just with designer furs (J. Mendel, Dennis Basso, Berger Christensen, to name a few) of every shape and size. There were so many people milling around, I wondered if someone would walk off with a free coat.

“Washington is fur country,” explained Washington Life magazine deputy editor Karin Tanabe. “I think it has something to do with being near the South.”

Nuff said.

In the corner, a genial man offered to shine my shoes (darn, wore suede), even though he had a row of kicks lined up looking like they were still waiting to be done. Inside the little shop, Saks had the smallest of the pop-ups.

Here, wool and cashmere scarves were the hot item. One pair of fur earmuffs was left for my perusal with the price tag marked down to $55—a mistake, I thought. A black Chanel muffler will set you back $895, but the ubiquitous Loro Piano offers more reasonable offerings in the $150 to $300 range. Among the evening bags by Badgley Mischka, a red satin number with a giant black jewel was literally and figuratively out of reach. It was so high on a shelf no one could reach it or knew what the price was.

Christian Louboutin is new to bags, using shoe-shaped hardware for closures, which didn’t work properly on one otherwise striking red patent clutch. 

Makeup here is provided by Giorgio Armani, free of charge. Kind of. You “reserve” your appointment with a $50 deposit, which is redeemable for product at the end of your session. The idea, presumably, is that you’re so pleased with the blush or eyeliner applied that you buy some, thereby “recouping” your deposit. Interesting. But the gal looked busy, so who am I to question why?

It was zoo-y in there. I asked for collar stays, and the nice lady offered to call the store for me and have them delivered the next day. I heard a gentleman ask if they had walking sticks. You’re dreaming, I thought.

I gingerly took a complimentary coffee from the elaborate stand that the Ritz set up, featuring feather balls, organza scarves, and Joe Biden oatmeal cookies.

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