About four months ago, I received the first direct mail piece I have ever received from Ann Taylor. I immediately called Liza to say how much I love their new look. From my perspective, during the past decade Ann Taylor had become a great place to pick out an interview suit in navy or black or a sedate dress to wear to formal occasions. (On a positive note, they also perfected the column of color look from which many women benefited.) At Ann Taylor, one could feel adequately “uniformed” about style trends and absolutely bored to death. The overall look made me feel frumpy (not good!), but in my mind, corporate America is a bit frumpy so with that look, perhaps I fit right in. The work force began to evolve and women said “no-no” to the manly-man suit and “yes-yes” to being feminine. Unfortunately, Ann Taylor missed that change now memo and kept cranking out fashions labeled: safe and sound. Their sales reflected their lackluster styles and things looked grim.
Believe it or not, J.Crew used to be in the exact same boat. But J.Crew figured out in lightening speed that in order to stay in business, women want fun, color, and value. They also lucked out enormously when Michelle Obama became their unofficial spokesperson to lead the charge. My friend Ann said it perfectly, ” I love J.Crew because you can buy a couple of pieces, feel fashionable this season and not worry if you give them away next year.” J.Crew does make life pretty darn easy for many of us.
Ann Taylor has finally figured IT out and has brought in a new designer over its whole brand. A quick call to Ann Taylor corporate put it all in perspective, and I discovered the architect of the new look at Ann Taylor is Lisa Axelson. She has recreated a brand with some wonderful references to the Ann Taylor of the past (like in the 50’s and early 60’s) with great pencil skirts, long coats and classic sweaters (can anyone say Mad Men??), and thrown out the dated, frumpy, corporate styles. It this a risky venture? Do you think they may marginalize all the hard-core corporate types only to find the competition for the fashion minded shopper is too intense? Don’t know, but you can be the judge.
Another great mailer arrived and this time with a 30% off coupon. Hello! If anyone sends me a 30% off coupon, in season, I try to go! YOU TOO CAN USE THIS COUPON! Mention the FRIENDS coupon (you can use this code, in all caps, online as well) and the local stores will take a whopping 30% off your total through November 22nd.
I would describe the new Ann Taylor look as sophisticated with some attitude on the side. Where the last year’s blouses were SO tailored and classic, this year’s have ruffles with a little panache and great colors. If you are in need of a great little black dress, Ann Taylor has four or five fantastic styles. Before their basic black dress worked nicely for a oh-so serious event, maybe a funeral; this season’s black dress is edgy and will stand up at any cocktail party or black tie event. Another great plus is their little black dress looks gorgeous with accessories of all kinds: belts, scarves and jewelry–the chunkier the better.
Here are some reasons to fall in love with the new Ann Taylor.
- Their clothes are versatile and will go with everything you already have in your closet.
- The sales people don’t work on commission. There’s no motivation to outfit you in something horrific just to send you on your way for the much coveted bonus.
- The sense of attention to detail in their fashions make a HUGE difference, giving Ann Taylor a more expensive look.
- Their selection of cashmere is worth noting and very affordable.
- Heidi Klum (a new Mom once again) is the new face of Ann Taylor. Will she be able to go up against Michelle? We’ll have to see. She’s believable and fresh and one tough cookie when it comes to Project Runway.
I will say this: your hard-earned $200 goes much further in the Ann Taylor stores of today versus yesterday.
Here are some of the incredible deals going in the store right now:
40% off all marked-down merchandise in the store
30% off all suits if you buy both the top and the bottom
Sweaters for $49.50 reduced from $80.00
A new selection of cashmere at great prices