Ginger Reeder, former vice president of corporate communications at Neiman Marcus and a 21-year veteran of the Dallas-based luxury retailer, passed away in her sleep on Jan. 9. She was 64.
Reeder had been diagnosed six years ago with early onset dementia.
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Reeder transcended her official title by being involved in many aspects of the Neiman Marcus business, most notably finding the often outrageous and ridiculously expensive fantasy gifts that always appeared in the Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalogue. Each year, she would appear on the “Today” show, among other shows.
“I’ve had great teams who helped me discover many fantasy gifts over the years,” Reeder told WWD at the time of her retirement from Neiman’s in 2017.
A stylish executive, Reeder was known for her charm, wit and for developing many great friendships. She worked closely with Neiman’s leadership including former chief executives Burt Tansky and Karen Katz. She also worked with the late, legendary Neiman Marcus impresario Stanley Marcus, who launched the fantasy gifts in 1960 and taught Reeder how to perpetuate the glamour and mystique of the tradition.
She often assisted top executives at the corporate office through crisis management such as a Neiman’s data breach in 2015, as well as issues at the local level, such as children reported lost or customers bringing their pets into fitting rooms and making other customers uneasy.
“Her compassion matched her fearlessness, making her an inspiration to all who knew her. But what set her apart was her gift for connecting with others — she was a generous listener and a friend to everyone she met,” said Steven Kornajcik, who held the titles of executive senior vice president of creative services and senior vice president of multichannel branding at Neiman Marcus.
“Effervescent, vivacious, filled with charisma and curiosity, Ginger’s warm, infectious personality was her trademark. Her fiery red hair and engaging smile were her brand,” said Ken Downing, former Neiman Marcus senior vice president and fashion director, and currently chief creative officer of Xcel Brands and creative director of Halston.
“Her outgoing personality afforded her an impressive if not eclectic mix of friends and business associates,” added Downing, who for years worked closely with Reeder. “Designers, politicians, musicians, artists, architects, attorneys, Ginger’s circle was the curation of her never-ending passion to unearth the new, unique and unexpected, in people, places and things.”
Reeder also worked closely with Neiman’s finance division, legal team and human resources to oversee media strategy for two acquisitions. She drove the external communications strategy and communication with customers, and prepared the chief technology officer for testimony before the Senate after Neiman’s suffered the data breach. She also oversaw changes in the corporate charitable-giving strategy, which had not changed since 1907, and developed ideas and opportunities for feature articles and interviews.
Outside Neiman’s, for many years Reeder was deeply involved in the St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Dallas, which was among the few churches in Dallas to early on accept openly gay individuals and support those afflicted with HIV and were sick.
Reeder was born Mary Virginia Reeder, was raised in Shreveport, La., and became widely known as “Ginger.” While in high school, her first job was at the local gospel, soul and blues radio station, KOKA, where she nurtured her love of music. Reeder was a graduate of Hollins University where she majored in American Studies and English.
Reeder started her career in 1986 as a marketing director at The Horchow Collection, which is owned by Neiman’s, and in 1992 joined the Dallas Museum of Art as director of marketing and external services.
Reeder joined Neiman Marcus in 1996 as director of media and public relations for the Neiman Marcus Direct division, and in 2003 rose to vice president of media and public relations of Neiman Marcus Direct, before assuming her post in 2006 as vice president of corporate communications.
Among the wildest selections she made for the Christmas catalogue were a $10 million zeppelin, $400,000 “his and her” boots, and a mermaid tail. One time she selected his-and-her caskets which didn’t make the cut. In 2004, O — The Oprah Magazine listed Reeder as among five women that Oprah Winfrey would like to change places with for a day because of her job selecting fantasy gifts.
Reeder once said that while she loved the assignment, working on the Christmas book each year became increasingly challenging with the rise of the Internet. “Burt once asked me why don’t I pick more salable items, and I said to him, ‘It’s not about the selling. It’s about the publicity.'”
Downing said that Reeder, in her obsessive, never-ending hunt for the most over-the-top “his and hers” fantasy Christmas gifts, “was incredibly proud of working with Mr. Stanley and being part of his legacy. The only thing Ginger was more proud of than her time at Neiman Marcus were her two children. Ginger was one-of-a-kind.”
Reeder is immediately survived by her two children, James Vroom and Grace Vroom; her husband, Joe Patterson; a stepson, Jacques “Bunky” Vroom; her brother, James Reeder; her sister, Elizabeth Neubauer.
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