St. John Knits International Inc., commonly referred as St. John, is an upscale American fashion brand that specializes in women's knitwear founded in 1962 by Robert and Marie Gray. Gray and his wife, Marie, started the company in a San Fernando Valley garage in 1962 on a romantic whim.
While working in Los Angeles as a model, St John hand knit simple straight knit skirts and matching short sleeved tops for her own use. Her designs proved popular among her fellow models and she began designing and producing samples.
St John and Gray hired their mothers and another knitter and quickly set about production. The couple, now married, divided duties over the fledgling Irvine, CA business. St John designed the clothes and oversaw production while Gray handled the marketing and sales. Their collections included tailored suits and dresses as well as casual sportswear.
In 1990, Escada, formed by another husband and wife team Margaretha and Wolfgang Ley, purchased an 80% stake in St John Knits for $45 million. St John Knits used the funding to launch its own boutique stores. St John became a publicly owned company in 1993, with St John and Gray retaining 20% of the company.
St John continued to manage the creative direction of the company while Gray served as CEO and Chairman of the Board. Their daughter, Kelly Gray, was appointed President of the company in 1996, ascending to the CEO position after her father's retirement in 2002.
″St. John Knits' carved a lasting place for itself in the business world by selling to large, established retailers such as Jacobson's and Lord & Taylor, cultivating a relationship that would propel its growth for decades.