Two tips for authenticating St. John apparel: (1) check the label, and (2) decipher the season/ group code. Keep reading for the break-down!
As a powerhouse fashion brand, St. John carries several key collections. Like sisters, each collection carries the DNA of the brand—classic elegance— but, with its own twist. Knowing what to expect from each collection will help you spot a counterfeit intruder.
St. John Collection. This is the original line, whose signature is classic, sophisticated work-ready pieces. Often styled in two-piece suit or dress sets. Imagine this to be the oldest sister, the first in line.
St. John Couture. The Couture label elevates the original collection, both in luxury and price. It could be considered the high-maintenance sister. As the more expensive line, it justifies its prices by meeting the next tier of quality and construction, often incorporating silk linings and crystal embellishments.
St. John Evening. Mirroring the price point of the original collection, the Evening collection may be considered the "party" sister as these pieces are designed for "going out" evening wear. Often, the design incorporates intricate "paillettes", a small, flat, glittering embellishment, which may be found on the trim of a garment or applied throughout for a very "glitzy" effect. Paillettes differ from sequins in that they are flat; whereas sequins are notably cupped shaped with facets. Although most often associated with the Evening collection, paillettes may be found occasionally used in the other collections like the Couture collection.
St. John Basics. The Basics collection contains the essential closet "basics". It pieces are either black, navy or white and never go out of season. For this reason, the Basics collection also never goes on sale. Let's peg this collect the always reliable middle-sister.
St. John Sport. In keeping the analogy, St. John Sport could be considered the youngest sister— geared toward a youthful audience, it has the lowest price point of all the collections and tends to sport a more laid-back style.
St. John Caviar. A term popularly used and frequently misunderstood. "Caviar" is the name of the new black coloring coined by St. John in 2009 to replace its former black hue, which appears slightly navy when juxtaposed next to the richer coloring of "Caviar." The term is misunderstood as a collection because during the color's launch in 2009, the brand also introduced a multi-color capsule-collection with the same name causing confusion as to whether "Caviar" is a color or a collection. Technically, in 2009, the term was used for both, but today it is fair to say that St. John Caviar is a color and not a collection. For that reason, we can consider it a distant cousin (to wrap up the analogy!).
In sum, check the product to gauge whether its features are consistent with the typical design and construction of the purported label. After gaining familiarity with the collections, it becomes easier to recognize a fake that was manufactured based on one collection, but sports the label of a sister collection.
Since 2001, St. John tags a season and group code into the side seam or behind the brand label. This code can be used to trace a product to its original collection to verify authenticity (or catch a fake!) and can be used to match colors between separate pieces if you're trying to create a matching set.
The code is separated into two lines with season first, followed by the group.
Season code, the top line, is broken down by two letters followed by two numbers. The letters represent the season and the two numbers represent the year. For example, "SP" = Spring; "FA" = Fall; "PF" = Pre-Fall; "CR" = Cruise; "RT" = Resort. So, "SP 02" means the product is from the 2002 spring collection and "PF 09" means the item was from the 2009 pre-fall collection for that St. John label.
Group code, the bottom line, reads either "GP" or "GRP" followed by a number, which represents the group.
Note, this tactic does not apply to St. John pieces made prior to 2001 (when the code was adopted). Instead, you'll have to rely on fundamental methods of quality, construction and brand signatures to verify authenticity.
This can include measures like checking the fabric for the brands' signature knit blends like the "Santana Knit" (a proprietary yarn made from 80% wool & 20% rayon with an undisclosed twist) or "Milano Knit" (made from 53% wool & 47% rayon blend yarn), both of which can vary in finish based on the stitching pattern used on the product.