By Rhianna Jones
Ann Taylor is redefining itself. In order to get the word out that this long-esteablished staple for the well-dressed working woman is undergoing a discernible rejuvenation, Laura Pellegrini, the label’s VP Senior Designer, recently visited Chicago to preview its latest collection for select members of media and the city’s fashion circuit.
The cool atmosphere in a private room in Sunda restaurant perfectly complemented the modern sensibility emanating from the clothes on display. In addition to the various media, designers and fashion aficionados, several company representatives—dressed head to toe in Ann—made the rounds, perpetuating the sophistication and wearability of the brand.
As senior designer, Pellegrini chose to show off a range of Ann Taylor, donning a blue silk leopard dress from the upcoming August line, a necklace from the holiday collection and a bag that won’t be out for months. That is the mission of a style ambassador after all, making people want what they can’t have—yet. In Pellegrini’s words, she designs for a woman who is “confident, sophisticated, modern and chic.” Add a touch of eloquence and grace and you have the perfect encapsulation of how Pellegrini exemplifies an “Ann Taylor woman.”
It is only natural that Pellegrini’s personal style be so congruent with that of their target audience. She has worked as a designer for Ann Taylor for sixteen years, and held her current role as VP of design for eight. And so she has seen the brand transition from its more lackluster past to its current revived self. The transformation of Ann Taylor consisted of “new visuals, a new head of design, more synergy amongst the entire design team, and a hand-selected bunch who share the same mission and vision.” For Pellegrini, that vision would be to make “passionate women feel passionately about the clothes that they are wearing.” The thirty-person design team at Ann Taylor are “believers in quality,” using the finest fabrics, setting the highest standards for their product and creating a line of “perfects.”
The latest collection, entitled “urban oasis,” has an aquatic current running through it. The preview comprised five looks on display as well as a table full of accessories, jewelry and sunglasses. Aquamarine silk dresses with prints mimicking the waves of the ocean were decorated with brushed-gold coral bracelets and finished off with cognac sandals. A navy blazer in blended silk wool, an embellished tee and dress shorts belted in snakeskin make for the ideal outfit to look professional without being dull. There were elasticized bangles made entirely of Swarovski crystals. And the double-strapped leather heels are cushioned so that you can “dress well and live well,” as well as strut confidently with ease. And it is because the designers want to keep the clothes “relevant to your lifestyle,” that they are thoughtful in creating pieces that will be functional yet flattering and transition from day to night or season to season.
Beyond the clothing itself, Ann Taylor offers further advice on how to best incorporate its “perfects” into your everyday routine. Various retail locations have on-hand stylists who combine their chic expertise and familiarity with the brand to best assist you in your ensemble related queries. Amber Griggs, a stylist at the Water Tower location, describes her role as being “constantly on the floor, encouraging clients, and showing people how to best stretch their outfits.” She guides clients who love the brand but want to “show their personality,” and notes that an increasing majority are graduates from the “Forever 21 camp who have grown up” in need of a more groomed look for their new business-oriented routine. And so, as a stylist, she facilitates in merging your desires as a consumer with her fashion knowhow on what would best suit your body type and lifestyle.
Pellegrini notes, “At Ann, we don’t want to be just a stopover of fashion… we want to be the destination.” And judging by how, upon leaving, I saw the Ann Taylor campaign on three buses and two train stops in the course of ten minutes, it is safe to say that the re-energized company certainly is re-making a name for itself.