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Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Catharsis: A lovely reminder of why I love Anthropologie
Occasionally in my post research I come across old news stories about Anthropologie. Most of them are outdated factually but some are poignant reminders of why this brand resonates with me, from my heart to my head to my wallet.
I came across this New York Observer article on Anthropologie from 2006 and it is just wonderful. It begins with anecdotes about the type of shopper that shops at Anthro (conclusion: there isn't really a type per se) and one about how CEO Glen Senk and partner Keith Johnson (he of soon-to-be reality show fame) met.
Beyond that lies some serious insight into what makes Anthropologie tick. My favorite passage is from a shopper:
Another regular visitor is Michelle Mahoney, a supervising producer for VH1 in her early 30’s. “I’d say that people who love it are very faithful to the store,” Ms. Mahoney said. “I drop by there every few weeks, because it’s one of the few places that the home goods are as cute as the clothes. It’s those little added extra details and bits of international flavor that true New York girls can’t get enough of. You feel like you’re getting something unique without being overly trendy, and it’s a much better price than all the designer things that I love.”
Could not have said it better myself.
Here was the epiphany that steered Anthro towards its current demographic:
There’s the junior market, like Wet Seal—teenybopper stuff,” he said. “Then there’s the contemporary market—very fashion-forward, and if you’re bigger than a size six you can’t wear it. There’s designer, there’s missy … but there wasn’t really any people designing clothes for the 28-to-40-year-old, fashionable, fit woman.” These days, Anthropologie carries small upscale brands like Orla Kiely and Velvet, as well as designs from Tracey Reese, Anna Sui and the Upper East Side socialite Tory Burch (though, as Ms. Morgenson put it, “the girls who shop here don’t have that polished Upper East Side look”). Anthropologie’s design director, a Finnish woman named Johanna Uurasjarvi, oversees the in-house assortment. “The Urban Outfitters customer we lovingly refer to as the ‘upscale homeless,’” said Mr. Senk. “The Anthropologie customer is in a different stage in her life.” Success didn’t happen overnight. “I’d say in the last five or six years, we really found our voice and matured,” Mr. Senk said.
As I was reading this I asked myself, does this still hold up? Is Anthropologie the place I go because I am looking for something more unique than chains yet more frame accommodating than some designers? Do I shop there knowing that their inventory isn't likely to be duplicated somewhere else? Yesterday's post notwithstanding the answer is still yes. I walk into Anthropologie expecting to be surprised by something amazing and it always happens.
The article also contains off-the-cuff sage about the short-lived men's line; a few stories about over-enthusiastic shoppers trying to take home the store decor and worthwhile insight about why stores are allowed to decorate as individual locations rather than on corporate orders. Though the story is old I felt like I learned a bit from each.
At one point a dissenting quote is inserted:
“In that store, they don’t leave you to your imagination,” said Claudia Trezza, 26, a stylish Italian transplant about to start graduate school at N.Y.U. “They don’t let you play around—they do it for you. You see the T-shirts and the dresses and it’s cool. But then you see a girl with the same T-shirt the same way … from the pearls down to the shoes. It’s the same like a mannequin.”
This is the only sentiment in the article I disagree with. Do I draw ideas from the mannequins? Most definitely. Do I copy them down to the accessory? Heck no. I am much more guilty of that at stores like Banana Republic or H&M...stores that pick deliberate color palettes and drive me to be coordinated at best and matchy matchy at worst. It's the complete opposite at Anthropologie. There's a driving idea to each season yes but there is no dictated palette -- no this sweater goes with these three shirts and this one necklace. When I hit the store on a weekly basis (which I have been known to do) the mannequin in the dressing room area is different each time. Even if one piece is repeated it's shown in a new context, a new vision and undoubtedly a mix of cuts and patterns I never could have accomplished myself.
It's great to be reminded of the reasons why I fell in love with the brand initially. I recommend reading the full article...I hope Anthro never forgets these maxims either.