Tag Archives: talbots

Talbots & J. Crew Chase Core Customers

Hello-Hello, we hope you are enjoying a splendid week.

Today we share updates on two brands readers know; we begin with an update on the situation at Talbots.  You may recall hearing that the company has been struggling for years, with wild swings in its merchandise mix and a host of other challenges.  A brief refresher from Boston.com:

Talbots foundered for five years under the leadership of Trudy F. Sullivan, who strayed from the company’s classic styles in an effort to lure younger, more fashionable consumers.

That strategy backfired and alienated core customers — those 55 and older. The merchant, which still operates about 516 stores, has shuttered its men’s and children’s divisions and slashed expenses as a way to stem losses.

Yesterday the company announced a new management team; the incoming CEO, Michael Archbold, is the former president of Vitamin Shoppe, he has also worked at Saks. It seems Mr. Archbold hopes to return, at least in part, to the brand’s heritage. Women’s Wear Daily quoted from a statement by the new CEO in its story about the changes:

““By restoring the company’s focus on Talbots’ classic styling, we will be able to reconnect with the company’s historical customer base.

Presumably that means we will see less of this sort of thing….

Talbots September 2011

And possibly more things like these, pieces from the Fall 2012 collection.

Talbots

Trade publication Women’s Wear Daily shared more insight from a source in its its story:

This source also said Kaluzny emphasized that the “collective focus will be on financial discipline, protecting the integrity of the Talbots brand and, most importantly, on our customers….”

While a few ghastly reminders remain of the company’s loss of direction (like this Drape-Wrap Top, now $11.99), the majority of pieces seem to be closer to the brand’s original aesthetic.

Talbots.com

The harsh reality remains that even if Talbots can bring back its core customers, they still need to appeal to some portion of the under-55 crowd without completely turning off the older buyers.  Hopefully the new management team will be able to help bring the retailer back to a healthier position. (Psst, a shopping note: if you can find something you like, there appear to be some amazing bargains online and in-store.)

It looks like Talbots isn’t the only retailer trying to get more in touch with its customer base, Tuesday’s Times carried a story titled “J. Crew Wants to Reconnect with its Base“.

J. CREW, the popular purveyor of clothing classics, is rolling out a broad new advertising campaign aimed at galvanizing its customers — some of whom call themselves “jcrewaholics” — and also making them smile.

Elizabeth Olson’s story features images from the company’s new advertising campaign:

J. Crew via the New York Times

Back to the article in the Times:

The campaign ads use the line, “We know you are out there,” to appeal to its aficionados along with close-ups of fashion-forward artists, editors and others who, J. Crew says, wear its clothing not only in the ads but also in their daily lives.

The campaign will span major print outlets as well as digital and social media, and will be the first time the company, officially known as the J. Crew Group Inc., has embarked on such a wide multimedia marketing initiative.

The story points out that previously Crew has used very limited advertising, relying more on word of mouth and things like its catalog, officially called the ‘Style Guide’.  (Below, August’s catalog.)

J. Crew August Style Guide

The story quotes chief marketing officer Diego Scotti:

“We are in a moment when we need to tell our story louder,” explained Mr. Scotti. “We are on a mission to elevate our product and customer demand. We have not done much advertising in the past, other than niche magazines.”

The company’s stepped-up effort will expand its presence in publications including Vanity Fair, Vogue, Fast Company and the Sunday New York Times Magazine as well as in social media and online. There are no television commercials.

Another two-page spread from the August catalog.

J. Crew August Catalog

Hmmmm. I know a number of our treasured readers have ‘broken up’ with J. Crew, disenchanted with the retailer’s turn to higher fashion and ‘boho prep’ (an oxymoron IMO) styles. It would be grand to hear some thoughts from those who have left one or both brands – are you ready to forgive and forget?

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Filed under preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle

About Those Emmy Dress and Milly Spring 2012 is Stunning (with a touch of Sperry!)

Hello-Hello, we hope you are enjoying a stellar start to a new week.

We begin today with last night’s Emmy Awards. As a rule televisions at the Prepatorium are not tuned to red carpet shows. They take wretched excess to new levels and never fail to disappoint.  However, for some reason last night we took leave of our senses watched portions of the Emmys red carpet show live on E!

Watching an extravaganza liker this in an internet age is an interesting experience.  For example, in an effort to better understand who was wearing whom, we were able to turn to a live blog via NY Mag‘s Culture Vulture that featured the wit and wisdom of the Fug Girls. Below we share a few tidbits from the blog:

OH PADMA. The slit on her dress is so high that we nearly saw her ladybits when she stuck her leg out to show us her shoe. The bodice on her dress somehow makes her look topless and she sort of sounds as if she is stoned.

Danny Moloshok/Reuters

Here is what Masters of Snark Tom and Lorenzo thought:

Love the shape of it, but she’s a column of one color. She looks a bit like an Emmy herself.

Hmmmm.  Back to the Fug Girls commentary:

Kelly (Osbourne) tells a story that she asked Marchesa for some gowns and they said no, that they were only dressing one person this year, and that person is apparently Lea Michele.

But then this:

Elisabeth Moss in….beige. Yes. Again. More beige. She is also in Marchesa, despite the fact that Kelly Osborne told us that they told her (follow that?) they were only dressing one person. Either Elisabeth Moss BOUGHT this dress, or they lied. Scandale!

Oops. Below we show the two ladies in the two Marchesa gowns. Seems someone might have some ‘splaining to do.

Getty Images

It turns out Ms. Osbourne was in J. Mendel, she looked splendid.

Getty Images

One of the most-discussed gowns was worn by über-prep Gwyneth Paltrow.

Getty Images

More on the dress from Tom and Lorenzo:

Tom will concede that it is off the beaten path, as far as red carpet looks go, and he’ll give Gwynnie credit for that. But belly-baring is so not the kind of risk-taking he wants to support and besides, he might actually like it if it didn’t have that tulle effect going on at the edges, which causes an optical illusion that makes her look like she’s bulging out of this thing. And even Lo has to admit that sitting down must have been a not-particularly-pretty picture. But we both agree that it’s not a typical goddess gown and it’s not the same boring red dress that every other girl was wearing last night, so points for that.

At the risk of sounding more-than-dense, it didn’t look that see-through… did we miss something? Our problem was that it simply wasn’t flattering. Not heinous, not a crime against fashion, just not stellar. Your thoughts?

Then there is this from HuffPo, definitely moving the needle on the Snarkometer:

“Boardwalk Empire” actress Paz de la Huerta hit the red carpet in a soft pink gown with a thigh-high slit at tonight’s Emmy Awards.

But rather than go for an all-out girlish look with a similarly feminine hairstyle, Paz opted for an edgier disheveled ‘do.

It may have been because she was in a rush, having overslept during her last-minute session at Hollywood Tans.

Getty Images via The Huffington Post

Ouch!  Not all comments were snarky. Back to Tom and Lorenzo, now chatting about Melissa McCarthy.

She told Giuliana that she designed this dress herself in collaboration with a dress maker and it shows. We mean that in a good way, mostly. She made several smart decisions for a lady of size. She nipped in the waist, went for the V neck, and accentuated the shoulders. Our only issue is with the dolman sleeves, which add all kinds of volume that she didn’t need. Great color on her.

Via Tom and Lorenzo

Other frocks of note included Ariel Watson’s, many felt it far too mature for a 13-year-old. We tend to agree, a child with braces doesn’t need a cutout bodice on an evening gown.

Getty Images

And now we move to the real reason we are even discussing the Emmys a star from one of our favorite shows, Mad Men.

Getty Images

Mr. Hamm was in Tom Ford while longtime girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt wore vintage Helena Barbieri.  Mad Men won Best Drama for the fourth year in a row, below we see Mr. Hamm, Ms. Moss and producer Matt Weiner.

John Shearer/Getty Images for AMC

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Our other topic today, the simply fabulous runway show for Milly from last week.

Alessandro Viejo/GoRunway.com via Style

Designer Michelle Smith cited Sonia Delauney as her inspiration for the collection, that influence was evident in the bold colors and graphic elements seen throughout the show.

George Chinsee/Women's Wear Daily

The styles were simply spectacular. From Fashionista’s review:

To complement the bold patterns, Smith stuck to clean silhouettes including short sheaths, button down shirts, and cigarette pants. “It’s a much simpler cut this season,” the designer told us backstage. “You won’t see any bows and ruffles, it’s a little more clean and modern,” she added.

George Chinsee/WWD

It was classic Milly, clean lines and bold patterns, timeless styles.

Getty Images

We would be pushed to find a style we wouldn’t love to add to the walk-in.

Via "What I Wore" Tumblr

The looks conveyed a sense of timeless elegance, pieces maintained visual interest without being overly embellished, no frou-frou, and no ruffles. (Talbots, are you listening, hello?)

Via Glamazon Diaries

Some of the more intriguing items seen on the runway were the shoes, back to Fashionista:

Some of the adorable high-heeled boat shoes were done through a limited-edition Milly for Sperry Top-Sider collaboration, while the simple slingbacks were classic Manolo’s wrapped in Milly silks.

Via What I Wore Tumblr

From the Women’s Wear Daily review:

But she also added a fun, preppy vibe that came through in pairings of button-down shirts with cardigans and loafers (a collaboration with Sperry Top-Sider).

Alessandro Viejo/GoRunway.com via Style

We hope to learn more about the Milly-Sperry collaboration.

And a few of the celebrities on hand for the show included Singer Corrine Rae Bailey, Louise Roe, Peaches Geldorf and Tinsley Mortimer.

Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

Ms. Smith was joined by her daughter on the runway when she came out for her bow after the show.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

On that lovely image we say g’bye until next time!

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Preppy Glamour, More Bad News at Talbots

Hello-Hello, we are running amok here at The Prepatorium today, it seems there a bajillion (is that more than a Gazillion?) little tidbits with a preppish slant, so we’ll jump right in and share a few.

The first is about one of our very favorite companies, Kate Spade.  The brand has just launched its first store in London, here is how The Telegraph describes the company:

“Lady-like American brand, ‘kate spade new york’, beloved of Upper East Side ladies and Jackie O enthusiasts hits the UK with two shops in London.

As some readers may be aware, Kate Spade’s design director, Deborah Lloyd, is British.  As always, there is a delightful graphic about the opening on the company’s website.

Kate Spade

More from The Telegraph’s story.

The British consumer can’t get enough, it seems, of the grown-up preppy glamour that dominates the middle market on the American high street. Banana Republic, J Crew, Banana Republic and Tory Burch – all recent transplants to the UK from New York – have a certain aesthetic: classics with a twist, grown-up and as Lloyd says, “lady-like”.

Below we see Ms. Lloyd outside the new store in Chelsea.

Via Vogue UK

The new store is just off Sloane Square, a perfect locale for this brand. You know how much we enjoy hearing perceptions on prep style from places outside the US, this is Elle UK’s take on the brand.

“The label known for its fresh-faced, retro-preppy clothes and classic handbags started 18 years ago as a handbag line. Its bright, optimistic vision of ladylike dressing has drawn the fancy of Zooey Deschanel and Emma Roberts.”

And here is how InStyle UK’s describes the company.

Kate Spade is renowned for its ladylike handbags, vintage-style accessories and quirky but sophisticated stationery.

Kate Spade’s other London store is in Covent Garden.

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Next, more tough news for Talbots. Women’s Wear Daily reports today that business has not improved and a key executive is gone.

Trudy Sullivan, president and chief executive officer of The Talbots Inc., today ousted the company’s chief creative officer, Michael Smaldone, and blamed “high levels of promotional and markdown activity” for second-quarter losses of $37.3 million.

As anyone shopping online or in-store knows, there has been a significant amount of merchandise marked down. Among the sale merchandise one finds things like the Luxe Sparkle Sequin Tank and the Keyhole Sleeve top.

Talbots.com

Call us crazy, but both items are well off the mark for both existing Talbots shoppers as well as the target demographic the company is trying to lure into stores.

More on the situation from Reuters.

Talbots said it plans to close about a fifth of its stores, bring in new merchandising and marketing people and rework merchandise to get customers back to its stores.

Ouch.  The Reuters story talks about closures in depth.

The company plans to close about 110 stores, including 15 to 20 consolidations, through fiscal 2013. Of this about 83 stores are expected to be closed in fiscal 2011.

As always, we hope they can dig out and return to profitability.

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We have something of an update to yesterday’s post about a leading retailer’s merchandise being sold on a flash sale site.  In the post we cited Brooks Brothers as an example of companies who use such sites not only to unload excess merchandise, but to get more exposure for the brand.

Lo and behold, look what I clipped from my Rue La La email last night.

Rue La La

Brooks Boys’ and Girls’ merchandise is available as part of Rue La La’s Little Rue launch, the site’s offerings for children; previously only adult apparel and accessories were carried.

Rue La La

The sale runs through tomorrow and has merchandise for both boys and girls.

Rue La La

There still seems to be a sizable amount of merchandise available, including today’s Pretty in Pink, the Pink Corduroy Down Vest is $49.90 and the Pleated Skirt is $25.90.

Brooks Brothers/Rue La La

As always, if in need of an “invite,” just click here.

With that, goodbye until next time!

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Filed under preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, Pretty in Pink

Is Pendleton….Hip? Also, J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons Profiled Everywhere

Well now, didn’t yesterday turn out to be more than a little wacky? With all that shakin’ going on and Hurricane Irene looming, we take a moment to send good thoughts to everyone impacted, batten down the hatches.

We move on to chatter about a company we have long been fond of, Pendleton; it’s one of those brands many of us grew up with, representative of what many refer to as ‘pure prep’.  It is still a name we think of every now and then, the memory jarred by a decades-old skirt hanging in the winter closet, or a neatly folded sweater stashed away until colder temps return. We also enjoy popping into our local Pendleton boutique, the quality of the clothing is one reason we harbor such positive feelings about the company, everything is very well made.

But let’s be honest, when you hear ‘Pendleton,’ is this what you think of?

Pendleton Woolen Mills

Would you be surprised to learn these are also part of the fall collection?

Pendleton

Above left is the company’s Soho skirt and on the right, its Consuela Short Skirt.

Last week one of our favorite columnists at The Los Angeles Times wrote a piece asking the question “Can Pendleton conquer the hipster class?” More from Times fashion critic Booth Moore:

For many, the brand is associated with career clothes and mom jeans, with Indian blankets and plaid shirts worn by the Beach Boys.

Pendleton via The LA Times

The picture is from 1963, it was used on the cover of the band’s “Surfer Girl” album. In a recent story Mr. Moore delves into Pendleton’s history and future, with a detailed look at the brand’s upcoming Portland Collection.

But Pendleton has been working to attract a new generation of contemporary customers for the last few years… Now Pendleton Woolen Mills, Oregon’s 102-year-old, dyed-in-the-wool blanket brand, is continuing its move into the boutique fashion business by tapping into the indie cool of Portland…

Styles from the Portland Collection.

Courtesy Photos

More styles.

Courtesy Photos

Back to Booth Moore’s article:

“The clothes nod to the season’s western trend, but in a quirky, alterno kind of way. The Pendleton jacquards, done in black and white, read more graphic and modern than Santa Fe style circa 1990. And the famous plaids aren’t outdoorsy so much as they are nerd-chic.”

Clearly, your trusty correspondent is unlikely to be found in pieces from the new line; we applaud Pendleton’s efforts to evolve the brand while remaining true to its core audience. As Mr. Moore’s story points out, they aren’t alone in this kind of endeavor.

Pendleton, headquartered in downtown Portland, follows several other American heritage brands in looking to the past to forge the future (Lands’ End, L.L. Bean, Woolrich Woolen Mills).

An image from the firm’s website shows a reference to its storied past with the ‘Right Then, Right Now’ graphics.

Pendleton

We have previously looked at Pendleton’s evolution, including this post in 2009 previewing its collaboration with the oh-so-hip Opening Ceremony.

The Portland Collection launches right after Labor Day and will even be available at some Anthropologie stores.

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Also today, word of some unhappy J. Crew customers in Canada. The retailer opened its first store there last week and pricing differences between the two countries has upset shoppers. From a story in the Globe and Mail:

“For online customers, taxes and duties raised the final price for orders in some cases by as much as 50 per cent compared with the U.S. site they previously ordered from.”

One challenge facing anyone opening new markets: technology that simply wasn’t around fifteen years ago, making pricing information available to anyone.  Back to the story:

“…the quick and angry response from customers to J. Crew’s hiking of domestic prices underscores its customers’ familiarity with its products and prices, and the easy access to its e-commerce site to make fast price comparisons.

Here is more in a story titled Why is J. Crew charging us so much?:

“The disparity is particularly noticeable online, where the final prices on J. Crew’s Canadian site are as much as 40 per cent higher than on its U.S. site once taxes and shipping are added.

For example, the U.S. price for a pair of Café Capri plaid wool pants is $138 while the Canadian price is $160, a difference of 15 per cent. Once shipping and taxes are added, the U.S. price is $159, while the Canadian price is $223, a difference of 40 per cent.”

Below we show two pair of the Café Capri pants, in Plaid and in Houndstooth, both are priced at the amount mentioned above, $138.

J. Crew Café Capri pants

In all fairness, most retailers entering the Canadian market charge higher prices, it is more expensive to do business in that country for a variety of reasons: higher taxes, additional fees, fewer (if any) distribution points, etc.  More from the Globe’s story by Marina Strauss:

Other retailers have felt consumers’ wrath about higher prices in Canada compared with the U.S. Last spring, a study found that Canadian prices were 20-per-cent higher than those of the same products in the United States, while two years earlier the spread was less than 7 per cent.

Crew is also launching online shopping in the UK soon, its experiment selling through Net-a-Porter has been so positive a dedicated website is in the works, more from The Telegraph:

“Admirers of Michelle Obama’s colourful style will be happy to hear that J.Crew, her go-to retailer for affordable and stylish additions to her wardrobe (and that of her two daughters), is to launch in the UK at the end of the summer.

Although yet to be confirmed, prices are likely to come a little bit higher than in the US due to import duty, as reflected in their offering on Net-a-Porter.”

There have been several recent profiles of Crew’s CEO Jenna Lyons including a Q&A format in the National Post and New York magazine’s in-depth piece, it goes back to Ms. Lyon’s early days with the company

J.Crew was a small company in 1990, when Lyons went in for an interview. The brand styled itself as an energetic all-American label that was neither Talbots nor Ralph Lauren nor L.L. Bean. “J.Crew was the life that you could have,” Lyons says. “It was about hanging out. There was no price of entry. You might have a house in Maine on the beach, but you didn’t have a yacht and twelve horses.”

Below we see Ms. Lyons at work.

Martine Fougeron for New York magazine

More from Molly Young’s article.

Where feathers and sequins meet J.Crew is largely a matter of styling, and though Lyons dislikes the word preppy, her choices always invoke the core prep values of ease, cleanliness, and conservatism. If her company has always prized a kind of sartorial comfort—nothing too tight, too short, too synthetic—then Lyons, with her bare face and occasional bralessness, is what happens when comfort meets chic.

I very much enjoyed the story, click here to read the entire piece.

We leave you with this image from the just launched Lulu Frost for J. Crew collection.

Lulu Frost for J. Crew

The collection is now available in stores and online, princes run from $45 to $135.

Until next time. have a splendid day!

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Talbots Holiday 2011 and A Few Sales/Savings Opportunities

Hello-Hello, welcome to an absolutely gorgeous day here at the Prepatorium.

It seems like just last week we were engaged in a whineathon of epic proportion desperate for just a taste of spring or summer weather.  Fast forward a few weeks and now many friends find themselves praying for an early fall, it has been that hot or that dry or that wet, or simply that miserable in their corner of the globe. In that spirit we offer an early look at this year’s holiday collection at Talbots.

Women’s Wear Daily attended yesterday’s preview and has the story.

“Inspired by Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball of 1966, Michael Smaldone, Talbots’ chief creative officer, showed a holiday collection on Wednesday that was minimalistic, with a nod to easy Sixties glamour.”

There are some nice, bright jewel tones in the line.

It’s always good to see a splash of color in the middle of winter.

Another angle on the more vibrant colors.

Robert Mitra/WWD

Here are a few of the more casual styles.

Robert Mitra/WWD

It looks like Talbots will continue to grow its workout/athletic/yoga group, an area that remains a very positive story for most retailers. (Full disclosure; your trusty correspondent has a few pieces from this group and they are outstanding.)

Robert Mitra/WWD

There is a wonderful array of pieces in a deep, rich red, perfect for the holidays.

Robert Mitra/WWD

More from the WWD story:

“Smaldone focused on clean shapes, from long column gowns to short A-line dresses, as well as graphic black-and-white elements on looks such as a long houndstooth skirt.”

More in these colors.

Also seen more frequently this time of year, lamé and sequins, with a few animal prints also visible.

Robert Mitra/WWD

There are more jewel tones shown in the holiday accessories.

Robert Mitra/WWD

A few more items.

Robert Mitra/WWD

These are a bit tougher to see, but you can still get an idea of what will be offered.

Robert Mitra/WWD

Many of the styles shown look elegant, although it is obviously difficult to gauge when you can’t feel the fabric, look closely at the cut, the embellishment, etc.  We fervently hope the collection helps the troubled retailer get back on track, we would like to see them around for many years to come.

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We have a very few Sales and Savings Opportunities to offer.

Kate Spade is taking an additional 25% off sale prices, use promo code SALE25 for the discount. (Today is the last day.)

Brooks Brothers is doing its summer Clearance event.

Vineyard Vines is taking an additional 40% off its sale items, use promo code HOT. One caveat, this morning they have experienced numerous outages and downtime for the website. We’re sure it will be remedied as quickly as possible, but patience might be required.

Basically every apparel & accessories retailer we know of is offering significant discounts at its stores (as well factory/outlet stores) and online.

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One last FYI, we are doing a poll at our sister site What Kate Wore, Kate’s wearing of pantyhose/tights/nylons almost all the time is creating quite the conversation. We would love to know what you think, either by vote or comment or both!

With that, we say thank you for popping in to visit, we cherish each and every reader, knowing you have a gazillion choices when it comes to online reading opportunities. We are grateful you decided to spend a little time with us. 🙂

ADDITIONAL PHOTO CREDIT:

  • All Talbots photos by Robert Mitra, WWD

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Filed under preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, Sales & Savings