Thursday, May 19, 2011

What does Anthropologie mean to you?


In 2008, right around the time I started this blog, I was looking for a new look for myself. I was beginning a new job and wanted to shake things up a bit to visually express the exciting changes in my life. When I saw this photo in the August 2008 catalogue I knew I'd found what I was looking for. I unabashedly copied the haircut. I strived to look that effortless and put-together every day at work.

And in a nutshell, that's what I miss about Anthropologie right now. I love the inspiration the store usually gives me but right now everything just feels really tired. The catalogues are set in beautiful places but it only camouflages the ho-hum clothing. I don't want to beat Anthropologie up -- it's clear they realize they went too far off course and need to turn back. This post is more about discussing what I love about the brand and hope to see, and I hope you will chime in with your thoughts too. Sprinkled throughout this post are catalogue shots from years past that I keep on my permanent mood board -- outfits that transcend trends and pop culture to be timeless capsules of style I want to emulate.



When I am shopping, I'm looking for pieces that are classics with a bit of a twist. I want high quality fabrics: domestic cotton, slippery silk, crinkly chiffon and tulle hiding underneath my skirts. I want removable lining on sheer pieces and opaqueness where it counts. Rayons and polys should be used sparingly on items that need to breathe. When my clothing looks tired after just a wear or two, I feel exhausted. I just spent time buying the clothing...now I have to go shopping all over again?

I'm looking for tailored shapes in 80% of my clothing. I want seams and darts to define my waist. I want carefully planned sleeves that don't make my arms look I'm a cartoon body builder. I hope for my skirts to graze my knees with gentle pleats that move as I walk. I need pants that are long enough in a variety of shapes. My sweaters should be fun and have some shape to them.

I don't expect Anthropologie to be all those things. Here's what I miss right now: the feeling that each product was lovingly designed and executed. I've no doubt that the team there is working just as hard to design right now as they ever have. But it's not coming across in the clothing. I miss the intricate knits and the thoughtful blouses. I miss the work-appropriate dresses with subtle touches of whimsy. I miss the feminine details that helped me evolve from tee shirts, jeans and hoodies to my first adult wardrobe.



One question Anthropologie asks during their job interviews is: who do you think the Anthropologie customer is? To me, she is a working woman who relishes her freedom. She's aware of trends but not tied to them; she's smart and put together but doesn't want to look like a rat race clone. Her clothes are as much a statement about who she wants to be as they are about who she is. Anthropologie's clothing should express creativity, whimsy and intrigue through pattern, fabric and cut.

I will never buy my basic tees at Anthropologie. I take only cursory glances at the intimates and sleepwear. I go there to find items can blend in through their simplicity yet stand out in the details. Bonus points for pieces that can go to work and play nice on the weekend.



Of course a brand can't stay still forever, so I understand the desire to keep the designs moving forward. I see stores like Club Monaco breaking into the same intellectual space that Anthropologie sits in. Anthropologie already knows it has similar expressionists in the designs of Nanette Lepore, Rebecca Taylor, Tibi, Velvet, Splendid, Ella Moss, Tracy Reese, Nicole Miller, Anna Sui, Bailey 44 and so on. Moving forward, if I could think of some additional points of reference in the design world they would be Comptoir des Cotonniers, Milly, Elizabeth and James, Kate Spade, Alice + Olivia, and Marc by Marc Jacobs. And for some high-end inspiration, I think Burberry's recent collections have felt like a luxury version of many of the same statements that Anthropologie makes.



And so my hope moving forward is simply that Anthropologie stops trying to be what everyone else is trying to be. Don't compete against the J.Crews or the Madewells, the Shopbops or the Targets, the Tuckers or the Free Peoples. Don't worry about answering the trends. Don't be concerned about conforming to this season's shapes or colors because you have something different and wonderful to say. Tell your own story. Stand apart because of the fabrics, the patterns, the fit and the flow. Help me make outfits from pieces that speak to each other cohesively, that marry well in pairings and looks.



When I think about the pieces that have really spoken to me, they have all felt special. Perhaps it was the shape of the piece which looked immediately flattering, or some embellishment that elevated the piece above the ordinary and cookie cutter. They all come from a fun place and when I try those items on they bring a smile to my face. My style is not to smile at the shapeless or boxy, the low-cut or mini. I want classy, thoughtful pieces that cause heads to turn and watch me walk away. I want people to want to talk to me and wonder about who I am and where I'm going as I walk by. I want to talk about my joie de vivre through my clothing.



With my thoughts committed to writing it's your turn to speak up. What do you look for from Anthropologie? What pieces stand out in your mind? What advice can you give about what is missing right now?