A new Ann Taylor concept store is coming to Old Orchard on September 28th. Inspired by “the ultimate closet,” the new store will have broader selection of product, expert styling services and shop-in-shop destinations. Ann Taylor has recently gone through its most significant evolution, starting with the revamped collection launched in Fall 2009 under the brand’s new Head of Design, Lisa Axelson. The next phase of the rejuvenation is the brand’s new store concept. Second City Style interviewed Style Director Andrew Taylor to find out more about the new Ann Taylor concept stores.
SCS: What will be noticeably different about the Ann Taylor Concept Store? Can you tell us more about the “The Ultimate Closet” concept?
Andrew Taylor: Ann Taylor is in the midst of a significant brand rejuvenation that has addressed the fashion relevance of the brand, as well as its visual presence at retail. Under the design leadership of Lisa Axelson, the collections are more fashion forward and are designed to address the needs of today’s working women. In 2010, Lisa Axelson was recognized by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) for her work on the Ann Taylor brand and contributions to American fashion to become a member of the CFDA.
The new store concepts provide a strong visual backdrop for the collection and reflect the new fashion direction. The new Ann Taylor boutiques are inspired by a stylish modern home and provide a more intimate, residential-type shopping experience that is chic, yet warm and inviting.
The shopping experience is better on many levels. For one, curated fashion presentations and expert styling services add to the new store experience and make shopping easy. At the front of the store, Lisa’s favorite looks of the season greet the client and help with wardrobing and styling ideas
The key fashion message is complemented by shop-in-shop destinations including the Career Chic shop, a petites shop and an accessories shop. Dedicated stylists are also on staff and available for both walk-ins and appointments to help clients put together perfect individualized looks for any occasion.
Special attention was also given to the design of the new styling rooms which feature unique floral wall coverings, luxe ottomans, plush carpeting, and a new proprietary lighting system with flattering back lit mirrors – perfect for trying on clothes. Adjacent to the styling rooms is a private lounge area – a great place to spend time with friends and try on outfits while shopping.
SCS: Will this translate somehow to your e-commerce site as well?
Andrew Taylor: We are always working to improve the online and the store experience for Ann Taylor. Currently the website is easy to navigate, user friendly and really shows our fashion point of view through styling. Check out the “Must Have Looks” section for ideas on how to style your favorite pieces.
SCS: How many concept stores will you open? Is this the only one in the Chicago area?
Andrew Taylor: We opened over 40 new concept stores over the past two years and by the end of 2012 will have about 30 more.
We opened a new concept store at Michigan Avenue in March of this year and one at Deer Park Town Center last August.
We also have stores in Chicago at Water Tower Place, South Lasalle Street, and Oakbrook Center. Other stores in Illinois include Northbrook Court, Orland Park Crossing, Geneva Commons, Wheaton Town Square and Main Place.
SCS: What is your role as Style Director?
Andrew Taylor: As Style Director, I work on communicating Lisa Axelson’s seasonal design vision externally. It’s really about showing women Lisa’s fashion point of view, listening to them to find out what they love and feel comfortable in, and helping style them to make looks their own.
SCS: If you could only pick 5 items, what would you recommend as “Must haves” for Fall 2012?
Andrew Taylor: The Ann Taylor Fall 2012 collection was inspired by Head Designer Lisa Axelson’s recent trip to Paris and 1960s French couture — women who know fashion is elusive and embrace the timeless styles of the 60s, but know how to keep them fresh and forward with unexpected color and texture combinations.
You’ll see strong feminine pieces that make an impact, blacks and whites played off bold color and pattern — modern, sculptural silhouettes, but always with a soft feminine twist understated glamour. Tons of wear-now dresses and form-fitting pencil skirts. Modern tops matched with skinny pants in graphic prints. Great outerwear in bold colors like sapphire blue and jade green as well as timeless camel coats. Accessories include snow leopard ankle boots, ballet flats in a range of jewel tones, and riding boots – great for travel.
We can’t wait to shop!
– Carol Calacci and Selicia Walker