saks mall at university town center

Photo by Mark Farmwald

Tasked with creating a beacon of glamour at the region’s hottest new shopping spot, Joel Ellzey is flexing his fashion muscle. The dapper general manager of Saks Fifth Avenue at The Mall at University Town Center is about to unveil a world-class 80,000-square-foot destination store with crème de la crème labels for both men and women. Double the size of Saks’ former Southgate location, the expansive new two-story venue houses a luxuriously appointed Men’s Shop—a department that has been missed in Sarasota since closing in 2011.

“Not a day has gone by since I moved to Sarasota that someone hasn’t asked me if we were reopening the Men’s Shop. Now I can finally say yes,” Ellzey declares. Indeed, a revolution has overtaken men’s fashion in the past three years, with the men’s category significantly outpacing women’s apparel in sales growth. Consider super-slim suits, jeans in an infinite choice of cuts, and daring experiments with pattern and color on the part of designers.

Men need new clothes more often to look current now. And whether they opt for subtle change or bold fashion statements, Saks plans to reel them in with great product, and a team with a wealth of knowledge in fashion, fit and building relationships with clients, Ellzey says.

Despite his youthful look, Ellzey’s had a 24-year career with Saks, including eight years managing the Men’s Store at Saks in Atlanta. He moved up to assistant general manager at the Atlanta location and then to general manager of the chain’s West Shore Mall store in Tampa prior to assuming the helm in Sarasota in February 2013.

Still passionate about men’s wear and the art of selling it, Ellzey maintains strong relationships with Saks’ men’s fashion team and merchants in New York. “It’s exciting to be able to bring men’s back, and to watch our team adapt looks from around the world to Sarasota,” Ellzey says.

Saks Mall at University Town Center

Movado chronograph watch, $695

What’s offered at the men’s shop?

“The range encompasses everything from sportswear, sneakers and sunglasses to designer suits, sports coats and men’s furnishings. Jewelry, fashion watches, luxury timepieces and formal wear are new categories.”

Any new brands?

“We have new exclusive brands such as Isaia and Brunello Cucinelli and Sand clothing, and Tod’s and Swims shoes. Also new are Etro, Burberry Brit and Vince. Brands that have evolved over time like Zegna, Armani and the Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Collection will now include clothing, furnishings and sportswear.”

What trends is Saks forecasting?

“Tales from the Dark Side, which represents a convergence of refined and edgy street fashion; Chill Out, which embraces easy, laid-back dressing with relaxed casual sportswear; and Folk Luxe, a polished aesthetic rich in craftsmanship and tradition, but with a modern twist.”

Describe your style.

“It depends on the day. I might wake up in a classics-with-a-twist mood, which could be a navy pinstripe suit with a classic modern international fit. To me, the look is truly about the perfect fit. And I like to have fun with accessories, so I might style it with a pocket square and colored shoelaces—I have 30 different colors.”

What’s new in amenities?

“We have a tailor on site in a men’s lounge, where guys can hang out and watch big-screen TV. The lounge is located directly under the new Sophie’s restaurant, where guests can enjoy al fresco fine dining.”

Saks Fifth Avenue, The Mall at University Town Center | 120 University Town Center Drive | (941) 364-5300

The print version of this story erred in reporting that the store offers complimentary alterations.

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This article appears in the October 2014 issue of Sarasota Magazine. Click here to subscribe. >>

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