Naomi Watts - The New Face Of Ann Taylor
If you're surprised to see the gorgeous Naomi as the face of a retail store known for their super conservative boring fashions then get ready to have your socks blown off.
(Image of Naomi Watts - July 2010 at Salt Premiere - DC Media - All Rights Reserved)
The quiet conservative Ann Taylor (the company also owns the Loft chain) you used to know has left the building. Signing the stunning Naomi as the celeb spokesperson is just one aspect of an extreme makeover which is happening at the aging retailer.
Note: Ann Taylor was never a real person. The chain is named after a bestselling shirt dress style.
Ann Taylor's New Creative Director
Ann Taylor has a new creative director (who joined the retailer in 2008) who hails from major successes for Gap, Banana Republic, Club Monaco and Abercrombie & Fitch. Her name is Lisa Axelson and she's bringing her own brand of freshness to the company. The ultimate goal? To appeal to a younger, more stylist shopper.
The Famous Milla Jovovich Ann Taylor Cream Floral Lace Sheath Dress
If the cream floral lace sheath dress worn by model Milla Jovovich in Ann Taylor windows last May is any indication of how the extreme makeover is coming ago, the company is doing well. The dress worn by the young, hip, fashion forward Milla was in such demand it sold out in a matter of days eventually popping up on EBay at nearly three times its original store price tag.
(Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber arriving at the 64th Annual Antoinette Perry Tony Awards at Rockefeller Center in New York City on June 13, 2010 - DC Media - All Rights Reserved)
Of course lets not forget the Fall 2009 Ann Taylor runway show held during New York Fashion Week and a spectacular West Hollywood meet-an-greet at the Soho House for all the young and happening Hollywood crowd.
Not Going Down Without A Fight
The conservatively dowdy Ann Taylor was sinking fast, losing a third of its sales volume during the last few years according to retail analysts. But Ann Taylor was determined not to go down without a fight.
Note: The first Ann Taylor store opened in 1954 in the Hotel Taft in New Haven, Conn.
New creative director Lisa Axelson, 38, has spearheaded a quick turnaround. First-quarter sales for 2010 were up 16 percent from the same period last year. The Ann Taylor conservative suit looks have transitioned into fashion-forward separates with soft details.
From Stodgy Suits To Feminine Inspired Separates
And the Ann Taylor wardrobe has gone from head-to-toe suit looks to more fashion-forward separates with feminine details. Axelson wants the newly redesigned Ann Taylor customer to enjoy clothes designed to take her from office desk to dusk with the appropriate accessories.
Although Axelson has stepped in to design for a company which opened in 1954 and became the standard for the corporate suit worn in the workplace. By the beginning of 2000 Ann Taylor was completely out of step with fashion and the brand withered on the vine. It became the name synonymous in fashion with conservative clothing.
Four Unique Collections Each Year Including Bridal And Mom-To-Be
Axelson has a team of 30 people who work to create four unique collections each years for approximately 400 styles. They also do a bridal collection and a maternity collection, which I was completely unaware of.
The direction for Fall 2010? Pared down but dressed up. Professional dressing is back, but with a more modern, sassy way. Axeslson questions whether casual is gone forever, but has noted people are taking their work attire more seriously. She notes "Those who are employed are grateful."
Still Not J. Crew Or The Darling Of Mrs. Obama Or Anna Wintour
Ann Taylor has yet to achieve the status of their role model, J. Crew, which manages to still be very popular with both fashion insiders and outsiders. For one, the brand hasn't dressed Michelle Obama, though it's not for lack of trying. They have sent clothes to Obama's de facto stylist, Chicago retailer Ikram Goldman but have not gotten the clothes onto Mrs. Obama. And no, Anna Wintour (Editor In Chief of Vogue) has not come calling yet.
Jezelbel.com Called AnnTaylor.com Out For Obvious Photoshopping
Just like with any makeover there may be snafus along the way and Ann Taylor has already had their share. Popular blog Jezebel.com (one of my favs) blew the whistle on the retail chain when they noticed photos of AnnTaylor.com models who had been photoshopped into Bobblehead oblivion. The stick thin AnnTaylor.com models made Kate Moss look fat.
"We were all involved, and we briefed the company that does our retouching that it needed to look more natural, more like real women," Axelson says.
The Ann Taylor website was again called out at the end of July when a technical glitch showed viewed models before and after they were Photoshopped.
Axelson said "when we do casting, it's all about perfectly imperfect, honoring her curves and beauty from the inside out. So this was so opposite to what we want to convey as a brand, and what we are about," says Axelson, who points to recent Ann Taylor models Heidi Klum, Jovovich and Watts as women who are "not just beautiful, but have depth."
"The first year was about doing, listening and correcting," she says. "Now, we have to build on that." "We are in the incubating stages of showing women that Ann is relevant again," Axelson says. "These aren't just your mom's clothes."
Only time will really tell if the consumers agrees. Never mind what Mrs. Obama and Anna Wintour think. The brand will win or lose at the check out counters.
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