Klaatu barata nikto... did pod people take over fashion in 2010?

And if a crew from outer space made us sad, are we alone in the universe?

Here follows a rather long quote from a recent post by Roxy of Effortless Anthropologie, which is more than worth reading. I've copied most of the text, and I urge you to go to the post and read the readers' comments. Here's Roxy:

For me, 2008 and 2009 were my personal shopping high points. The trends of the seasons fell nicely into my style sensibilities and both Anthropologie and J.Crew (my two favorite stores) were hitting all the right notes. Even luxury brands were speaking to me, with plenty of beautiful options worth saving up for. I look back at the shapes from late 2008 and early 2009 and I still love them! A-line skirts that brush the knees. Beautifully detailed or ruffled tops that show off curves in a distinctly feminine shape. Bold dresses that work and play well. Lots of defines waists and collarbone-showcasing necklines. Pumps with solid heels but no crazy platforms. Accessories in gold, silver and leather. An emphasis on rich, saturated colors and strong contrasts. What's not to like?

With the economy crash in late 2008 many retailers suffered but Anthropologie did quite well in 2009. Unfortunately that's also when they made a drastic left turn. Midway through the year the brand was outperforming its peers and setting new earnings records. In a strategy session Anthropologie decided that in order to keep pace, it needed to start attracting new customers. This is a smart decision but the execution was so strange. By new customers Anthropologie meant a newer, younger demographic. Alright, doesn't sound so bad...I'm technically a part of that though on the older edge. 

But to do it, Anthropologie decided that they had to abandon the designs that had brought them so much success and turn instead towards trendier, edgier cuts and designs. When I look at the February 2009 catalogue below, it's like the product of a bygone era. This was the last of the classic Anthro catalogues. Come March we got a new shape, a new paper material and an appropriate amount of confusion from the community.   

Since then, it's been hit or miss for many of us. After about a year Anthropologie realized their mistake and kudos to them for not only owning up to it but also working quicky to course-correct. I hope Anthro realizes know that the designs that made them so wonderful in the first place are timeless and attract fans of all ages. They may never be as big as The Gap -- is that a bad thing though? In this era of investor insanity where stockholders only care about seeing their share values grow, perhaps stability and routine, repeatable growth should be praised more than incredible peaks (which often come with incredible valleys).

And so the effort began in 2011 to turn back the clock so to speak and recapture the Anthro of yore. Leadership was cycled in and out, with the former design heads re-installed to bring back some of that old magic. It made for a very bumpy year where some items were unbelievably great while many were just head-scratchers. While the design team worked their asses off to reassure the customer base, the production team also had to do a 180 on the call to lower production costs by sourcing new materials and factories. Suddenly the call came back -- thank god -- for quality materials at the fairest price out there.

It's still very much a work in progress. Fall 2011 was the first collection influenced by the new/old team but it was not fully their ideas or designs. Now for Spring 2012 we see the full potential and clues about what's to come. I for one am very encouraged! In January 2011 I spent my birthday discount mostly on wishlist popbacks. This year I happily spent into my savings a bit to invest in a bunch of Anthro pretties at full price.....

While I'm seeing a lot of promise there is still work to be done. In their quarterly earnings calls Anthropologie has recognized that the customer isn't responding to some of their shapes -- i.e. the wide flares or shapeless draped tops. Yet despite saying they get it I still see those same questionable styles season after season. It's like Anthro is saying, "OK you didn't like denim super flares...how about corduroy super flares? No? OK, how about chino super flares! No? OK...how about...pastel super flares!! You'll like them dammit if we just keep knocking you over the head with them."

I feel that Anthro is still eying the trends a bit too much -- how many sidetail hems can a store carry? And two of my most loathed trends are already in-store: floral pants and pastel pants. While I love that fashion has embraced color for Spring 2012, I prefer my pops from saturated jewel tones. So while the sapphires and rubies in pants and tops call to me the robin's egg blue and easter egg pink are better left back in the 1980s Country Club they came from. Floral pants I'll never understand...can leopard jeans be far behind, Anthropologie? (Hope not...I really hope not.) But I also understand that not every trend will speak to me, so much the way I love ruffles to death I will politely nod and smile as my friend proudly shows off her new creeping vine print on white pants that make no sense to me but admittedly look great on her.

That's not to say Anthropologie is alone in tackling those trends -- it just always raises an eyebrow with me considering that the brand used to defy trends, not embrace them. They would do well to remember their own customer profile: independent women looking for something different. I've said it many times before and I'll say it again: I'm equally at home in Anthropologie, Theory, Helmut Lang or Alexander Wang. I don't go to Anthropologie to look for my ultra-modern downtown chic pieces. I go there to find clothing that's flattering, pretty and that makes me feel like the lady I am. I can balance the toughness and preppiness in elsewhere.

My hope is that Anthropologie gives their designs time to catch on. Frustrated customers need to be appealed to for a few seasons before they'll return. The word needs to get out that Anthro is coming back. And there's still some logistical issues, like price points, that need help. My outlook is positive. However, I feel that the community differs with me on several of these points.

I find myself in complete agreement with Roxy. I look for change and choices in fashion, and to me that's more than forced whimsy à la "grey tee with everything," or "jean jacket with everything." I've spent enough time in a jungle of sequins, animal prints and butt-cruising "skirts" to have reassured myself that, after all, I'm not Jane and I'm not Peggy Bundy.

So now I'd like to hear your thoughts. And thanks, Roxy, thanks. I feel better already.


  1. I used to love Anthro but Roxy nailed the timeline for when I fell out of love. Last thing I bought was a pair of Chie Mihara shoes in October and before that I cannot even remember, I think it was a sweater in 2009. The flowy voluminous silhouettes just aren't for me.

    I cringe at the thought of flowered pants. I bought J.Crew's cherry blossom capris and wore them once, even though the print is on a small scale. It's just too twee or something, I don't know. As for the brightly-colored skinny jeans, I cannot stand the look at all, so very trendy and with the higher waists it appears that camel toes are also back in fashion. Awful. Those looks will be so dated very quickly and retailers like Anthro and J.Crew never used to be about fast fashion but yet, here they are. At ridiculous prices, no less.

    If everyone or the latest celebrity is wearing it, I don't want it. If it looks good on, fits my lifestyle and will last, I will buy it. Quality fabrics, proper tailoring and classic colors will never go out of style. At least that is my hope.

  2. Hi again Fred. I recall that you are a fan of Nili Lotan. I wonder if you have seen, or have any thoughts on the Nili Lotan Maxidress that J.Crew is offering. I always appreciate your opinion and I know nothing of this designer so have no idea what to expect. TIA

  3. Hi, xoxo, well, not exactly a fan, but I do think that some of her things are interesting. The dress you're looking at, or its twin, was a collection item last spring/summer, and I actually had it home and tried it on. I liked the neckline. The fabric was very very thin and delicate, like the thin thin Thomas Mason shirts, and while I thought it might work for lounging on a yacht, I didnt see it at any of the beaches I frequent. I don't frequent yachts. I also thought the cut was skimpy-looking. And sadly it was too thin and translucent to be worn as a dress without some kind of slip, which would make it something other than the wispy elegant summer morsel it wants to be. As you can tell, mixed feelings, but I brought it back, I mentioned it in a post this summer, July 6, 2011. HTH!

  4. Thanks for the info Fred. I believe I will pass on this one as I do not want to require a slip for a wispy summer dress.


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