Fashioning the next chapter

As a longtime White Plains retailer, Mary Jane Denzer watched The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester rise. And something else: She had her eye on 5,000 square feet of space in the neighboring Second Tower of Renaissance Square.

For years it stood vacant. No more. Welcome to the new Mary Jane Denzer, which is sure to fill the needs of fashionistas and fashion newbies alike with well-known names (Oscar de la Renta, Valentino) and rising stars (Antonio Berardi and Roland Mouret).

“It sat there waiting for me,” Denzer said of the street-level space. “It’s a dream come true, just kind of meant to be. … We’re a luxury store and we needed a luxury location.”

She was talking over coffee in The Ritz-Carlton, where the store was temporarily ensconced in a suite as she readied the new digs. In person, Denzer – an immaculately coiffed blonde with creamy skin – is a walking advertisement for what she can do for a client. She looked cool, crisp and elegant in a black top, white slacks and woven black flats, a necklace with a rope of beads and a gold pendant at the throat.

After, we strolled over to the store. Like couture itself, it marries angles with curves as it provides shoppers with a full complement of services. There’s even a kitchen/dining area in which Denzer can sit down with clients, along with an alterations room.

The palette is white and silver gray with touches of blue. A silvery mannequin displays a darling short, pink, lace lingerie dress by Elie Saab. “Light as air” snakeskin handbags and clutches from Bali fill niches. Belts coil in cubbyholes. Statement necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings in gold and various stones command attention in well-lit vitrines.

The shop is the work of Steve Lochte, president of Brand+Allen Architects Inc., who did the Valentino store in San Francisco and the Céline store in Las Vegas, Denzer said. He also did her previous store – a 20-year beacon on a corner of Maple and Mamaroneck avenues – and her White Plains apartment.

“He’s terrifically talented and also an interior designer as well.”

If Lochte’s handiwork is the setting, the jewel is the clothing. A stunning beaded, mesh, cap-sleeve LBD by Zuhair Murad awaits someone’s “Pretty Woman” moment. A figure-hugging garden party Margeaux cascades into waves of fabric. A glimmering gold Carolina Herrera sweater set hangs near Giambattista Valli botanical print loungewear. Each piece and its placement is a testament to Denzer’s taste and unerring eye.

The author selects the Zuhair Murad LBD to try on, but Denzer knows better and suggests a fall Oscar de la Renta offering – a full black dress with a fitted waist, three-quarter sleeves and a weighted, knee-length satin border. Denzer styles the outfit with a bracelet of gold, cutout squares and small gold and brown clip-on earrings. The effect is, well, see the photograph accompanying the Editor’s Letter on page ?.

De la Renta (May WAG, “Flower Power”) – a go-to designer for everyone from Hillary Clinton to Sarah Jessica Parker for the way his voluptuous creations and fabrics enhance the feminine silhouette – has long been a Denzer staple. Another big name you’ll find in the store is Valentino.

“He has two new designers (Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri) who have taken Valentino to a new height.”

“New” is a big Denzer word. Mention a certain American designer and she will scoff at what she considers not only old hat but no longer high fashion.

“I’m trying to make the store up-to-date,” she said, “not faddish, but trendy.”

So she looks to established names like Elie Saab, who dressed Halle Berry when she won the Oscar for “Monster’s Ball” in a miracle of draped burgundy satin, netting, leafy appliqué and the illusion of nudity. And newer brands like Antonio Berardi (July WAG, “Power Foods”) and Roland Mouret, who also flatters the female figure. They’re perfect for the Denzer client: “She’s a woman who knows fashion or she’s a woman willing to learn about fashion.”

What she’ll be seeing this year, Denzer said, is “a lot of mixtures of patterns; a lot of full skirts with fitted waists; gray, cream, beige – neutrals; sweater vests trimmed with fur; and skinny pants.”

Also, she added, “The pantsuit is back in a whole new way. It’s kind of flirty with a sexy shape.”

The big-shouldered power pantsuits of the 1980s, however, are never coming back, Denzer said, adding with a touch of wistfulness, “I had to let go of my Yves Saint Laurent pantsuits.”

Certainly, Denzer would not recommend a pantsuit for a dinner date in WAG country.

Go with a dress, she said, in a pretty color – not too short. If you’re out with your husband and friends, then a great pair of slacks with an equally smashing top is also appropriate. But in either case don’t forget to accessorize with a necklace, earrings and a great pair of shoes. “Accessories finish a look.”

It’s one of the fashion principles that Denzer has been instilling in clients for 35 years – the first 15 of which were spent in a shop on East Post Road, then 20 on that corner of Mamaroneck and Maple. The new store has new hours, being near a hotel where guests like to shop in the evening and on Sunday. One thing that hasn’t changed: Denzer’s devoted Papillon, the feisty but well-disciplined Bodhi, remains the official greeter, occasionally burrowing under $10,000 gowns.

Still, she said, “it’s on to the next chapter.”

Mary Jane Denzer is at 7 Renaissance Square in White Plains. For hours and more, call 914-328-0330 or visit

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