Eye Candy: Made in Kind May 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Anthropologie's Made in Kind collection has updated for May 2012 as the pieces continue to impress. Joining collections from designers like Karen Walker (many of which are reviewed here), Gregory Parkinson, O by Organic are new capsules from Byron Lars, Tracy Reese and Charlotte Taylor.  

The true genius is in the marketing. Many of these designers have been available at Anthropologie before. Tracy Reese has been stocking her incredible Plenty and Frock dress lines at Anthropologie for a long time, Charlotte Taylor's quirky prints have been around Anthro racks for a few years, and Byron Lars is best remembered in my heart for the lovely On-a-Wing Blouse. Now, instead of full production orders Anthro has spun itself limited-edition collections and packaged these mini-orders together as a kind of monthly gut-check fashion retrospective. Demand is driven up by the low stock while Anthropologie gets to experiment with customer interest in the mid-to-high end of its price range. It's smart on their part. The Made in Kind collection has been publicized in Anthropologie's typically low-key fashion with coverage here and there. The clothing mostly speaks for itself anyway.

These mini-collections may not have much to say to each other but they speak loudly on behalf of the brand: OK ladies, here's a bunch of different styles we think you'll like. Which ones do you like best? Help us see where you want us to go next. It's fun to see so many shapes and styles represented. Maxis, dresses, blouses, camis, skirts, shorts -- you could assemble a closet from these capsules alone.

But perhaps the biggest strength here is that the capsules are easily identified as collections, with cohesive thoughts in each. One of the challenges of being an Anthropologie customer is figuring out which of their pieces go together. With these collections you can cut to the chase and if you're bold enough just pair two pieces from a designer together. 

Another luxury for Anthropologie is experimentation with materials. Would customers prefer a high-end designer switch silk for poly to bring the price down, a la Target's designer capsules? Or would Anthropologie customers prefer pricier pieces where materials are top notch and details aren't spared? Whatever your flavor Made in Kind has an option.

In these pieces I see some of the old Anthropologie coming back. In the Byron Lars items I see echoes of Ric Rac and other lines Anthropologie has retired. The Of India collections remind me of the details we used to see in every dress, where each stitch counts. And in the Hi There! by Karen Walker line I'm reminded of the way Anthro items are supposed to fit, with each curve being flattered by deft skill in pattern, sewing and tailoring. Welcome back to all that and more. 

In some ways things have come full circle. I've found myself saving many of the model shots because some of these pieces are like little works of art to me. The Place Nationale collection in particular has enthralled me. Its one-of-a-kind nature is almost like a rainbow: avert your eyes for just a moment and it might be gone. Even if the recycled bohemian look is not your cup of tea hopefully the thoughtful designs are clear.

Anthropologie has introduced me to many a brand and Place Nationale is just the latest in a long line of designers I want to learn more about. Turns out Anthro's been listening on that front too. Their new companion piece The Magazine has insight into the hive mind of the design team. Who is inspiring them right now? What do these designers have to say about their collections? It's nice to see the curtain pulled back a bit so we can see where the brand is coming from, where it stands, and where we might be going.

Mayte Shift ($288), Lima Bustier Dress ($298), Elvia Dress ($258).

The Made in Kind collection is destined to continue for several more months. I hope that Anthropologie considers releasing a capsule from its in-house team, showing what a Floreat or Pilcro capsule might look like. (Again, it's really all in how it's packaged -- the capsules live in disparate places on the site now.) And I hope that the success of items both expensive and less so shows that it's all in the design first, with quality right behind. I think my only disappointment has been in the models...no diversity continues to be a troubling theme.

Have you purchased any of the Made in Kind items? Which designers are you impressed by, which ones not so much? What do you think of the quality of these collections? Do you like the designs? Do you think these capsules fit in with Anthropologie's other items? I'm eager to hear the community's thoughts.

Made in Kind -- Coming April 5!

 Around the web:
Tracy Reese creates capsule collection for Anthropologie - BET
Anthropologie announces forthcoming collaborations - DIY Fashion
All the Rage: Gregory Parkinson launches new collection at Anthropologie - LA Times
John Patrick debuts O by Organic for Anthropologie's Made in Kind - ecouterre