Co-founder of St. John Knits Inc.
St. John Knits, Inc. began in 1962 when Marie hand made a dress to impress Robert Gray, her fiancée at the time. He was so impressed with her that he brought the dress to several department store buyers and returned home with orders for 84 dresses. Currently, Marie is vice chairman and chief designer, and Robert is chairman of the board and chief executive officer. Their daughter, Kelly Gray, has been president since 1996.
Quality and classic styling have always been the foundation of St. John Knits, Inc., and it is this focus that has brought the company the success it has enjoyed for many years. Over the past ten years, sales have grown from $37 million to $242 million, with 1998 third-quarter sales increasing by 24 percent over last year’s third-quarter sales. Third-quarter sales for company-operated retail boutiques also increased by 22 percent. Company lines include St. John Knits, St. John Sport, St. John Coat Collection, Griffith & Gray, accessories, and fragrance. Eyewear and watch lines have recently been added.
Another key to St. John’s success has been customer focus on businesswomen as a target market. This market has been the key to the company’s top quality reputation and steady growth. The company also has a unique approach to manufacturing. It owns and operates every design and manufacturing phase for its core product lines.