Tag Archives: Chico’s

The Women Behind the GOP Candidates and the Fashion Brands that Should Love Them

Of all the angles reporters have taken to discuss the GOP candidates for the nomination for the 2012 presidential election, I am unaware of one that has yet to speak from the viewpoint of the leading fashion designers that stand to gain the most from the triumph of a specific candidate. You may question why anyone should care what the fashion industry thinks of the candidates, but given the incredible power and influence the current First Lady has proven to have in putting emerging designers like Jason Wu on the map (he’s penning  a ‘thank you’ letter to Michelle O. for his upcoming Target collaboration as I write this) and driving sales at popular retailers like J.Crew, the style profile of the most visible American female can have a very significant financial impact.  So, looking at the top GOP candidates thus far in the race to the primaries, let’s see which designers might be lobbying for their chance in the social and economic spotlight as the First Lady’s fashion guru:

1. Carolina Herrera -> Anita Perry

Anita and Rick Perry, 2011

Carolina Herrera, the reining queen of sophisticated and refined day and evening wear for the wealthy, ladies-who-lunch crowd, is a perfect match for Anita.  A former nurse, with an M.S. from the University of Texas, Anita is currently a full time supporter of her wealthy husband’s bid for the Republican nomination.  Between the weekly church services, supporter rallies and fundraising dinners, Anita will have ample opportunities to impress at a black tie affair in this frock from Herrera:

Carolina Herrera Fall Winter 2011

2. Oscar de la Renta -> Ann Romney

Mitt and Ann Romney, 2011

Like Perry, Mitt Romney has a boatload of moolah and his wife, a Harvard graduate, has quite refined, classic and expensive taste.  As the housewife of an experienced and successful businessman, Ann understands her role as a hostess and social connector quite well and has no problem buying the right clothes to project the correct image: conservative, classy and eternally chic.  Who better to go to than Oscar de la Renta.  Popular with the Park Avenue crowd, de la Renta is beloved for his sleeveless day dresses, lavish coats and fitted skirt suits.  Ann would make a statement in this gorgeous eggplant color sheath dress, accessorized with an amazing gemstone brooch:

Oscar de la Renta Fall Winter 2011

3. Chicos -> Carol Paul

Ron and Carol Paul

Chico’s,  a retailer catering to the everyday woman featuring a full line of private label apparel, accessories, and jewelry, with a focus on comfort, is a perfect fit for Carol, the seventy-something wife of Ron Paul.  Anne has avoided the campaign trail thus far stating that without her presence, “the house would fall apart”.  Unlike the previous two ladies, Carol is very relatable both in appearance and in her simple, yet attainable style which screams, average America.  For the same reason, White House, Black Market might want to join Chico’s in a 2-for-1 fashion fundraiser:

A look from Chico’s Fall 2011

A versatile day to evening dress by White House Black Market, Fall 2011

4. Ann Taylor -> Gloria Cain

Herman and Gloria Cain

The sixty-five year old housewife is known in inner circles to be incredibly supportive of her husband, an involved mother and also quite shy, so don’t expect her to be out front during the campaign season.  Given the little we have seen of Gloria, she appears to be a woman who prefers conservative, classic and tailored clothing with a pop of color or fashionable point of interest.  Ann Taylor, a clothing retailer catering to women ages 35-60, delivers sophisticated and high quality clothing with an affinity for tailored, conservative styling. Ding! That’s a match. Also, given the company’s choice of brand ambassadors over the past two years (among them Heidi Klum, Naomi Watts and Katie Holmes) as well as the current face, Demi Moore, the brand appears to be seeking to increase its style quotient and fashion following. Dressing the First Lady would be the ultimate ticket to exposure. Imagine the chic statement Gloria could make in one of these two looks from Ann Taylor’s Fall/Winter 2011 collection:

So, do you think we hit the nail on the head? Are there other designers who you think would be a better fit for these potential First Ladies? If so, post your comment so we can start a dialogue.  Up next is the most likely Democratic candidates for the nomination and the brands that are hot on their tales.


Warp and Weft: Joan Vass & Chico’s Designer Collaboration

Above Photo: Joan Vass. Photo credit Patrick McMullan

Hello my friends.  As today is my birthday, I decided to focus on a birthday wish of my own- the return of the genius knitwear brand, Joan Vass.  Although the game-changing designer passed away earlier this month, her legacy is one of outspoken style.  Although quite an eccentric and loud woman, her design ethos was decidedly the opposite- favoring understated, simple and enduring designs able to stand the test of time.  Joan, together with her husband, artist Gene Vass, formed part of the influential crowd of artists, intellectuals and actors that were among the first to convert factory lofts into apartments and fashion offices in the area now commonly known as Soho, NYC.  In fact, her first fashion show was held in her home- a loft on the top floor of a building on Mercer Street, accessible only through the use of a freight elevator (at least the ceiling didn’t cave in during the show as was the bad fortune for one Mr. Michael Kors in 1993).

After a successful launch at Henri Bendel in the early 1970’s, winning the Coty Award and bowling over fashion and Hollywood heavyweights like Farah Fawcett and Candice Bergen with her chic and simple clothes, Joan signed with a major league manufacturer, Signal Apparel, a savvy decision as it granted her the ability to extend her distribution nationwide; a move that lead to sales upwards of $25 million.  Fast forward to 2006, Joan retired and sold her company to Global Sourcing and Design, a licensee that now produces and distributes the brand to retailers including Neiman Marcus and Zappos.com.

Much like the case of Vionnet mentioned last week, the original design ethos of Joan Vass lives on through reference by Sonia Rykiel and Eileen Fischer (although the later sometimes takes simplicity over the border into dullsville). However strong a reference may be, it will never be as great as the original. Hence what I really hope for is a resurrection of the brand which in order to happen, requires two things.  The first is brand equity- the Joan Vass name  must have a leveragable value. Second, the right designer needs to be identified, one who has the ability to take her basic tenants and shape them into something new and relevant to today’s woman.  Finally, a  strategic partnership with a fashion brand/retailer that boasts a defined and loyal customer base and is in need of upping its fashion ante would help build awareness.  Only one name comes to mind: Chico’s.

Photo courtesy of Mac Arther Shopping Center

Chico’s, a specialty retailer based in Ft. Meyers, Florida is perfect for a few reasons.  Primarily, it is widely known for and adored by its very loyal customer base (females ages 35- 60, middle to middle-upper class) for its chic patterns, artisan jackets and wrinkle- free Travelers collection. This is a company that should be used in a benchmark study for how to successfully know a customer not only on a demographic level (who they are, where they are, physical attributes, etc), but also on a psychographic level (why and how they buy).

Secondly, the retailer has spent the past couple of years focusing on increasing its fashion quotient by bringing on the magpie of all magpies, Lauren Hutton, as the face of the brand. They have also gone younger and fresher with the aesthetic and styling of its collections.  Here are a few of the better pieces currently offered:

So seriously, I know a lot of women who would wear these outfits- they are on trend with prints (especially the ikat) and color (blue white and orange) and frankly, the silhouettes are quite slimming and very easy to wear.  For the Chico’s customer, this is batting at 100%.  However, some of the more basic items such as the following knits could really use some spiffying up, and this is where the collaboration with Vass makes total sense:

A mean really, I think Chico’s can do better knitwear than this. Save for the chunky jewelry (which really is outstanding and taking some of the wind out of Banana Republic and J.Crew’s successful accessories program), these outfits just don’t work. The sweaters really could be much chicer.  I just think if you are going to go basic- go basic.  Don’t try to do a basic block sweater and then add in design elements to the knitting- it just looks matronly.   I mean, why let Ann Taylor or Talbots steal market share when a well thought out and executed association with a respected designer brand could really differentiate the Chico’s brand from its competition!  Oh, and just so we can all agree on how fantastic Lauren Hutton is, take a look at this:

Oh yes, I adore her. I challenge you to negate the fact that this cover could easily be an ad campaign for Lauren by Ralph Lauren.  However, one must ask if Chico’s did the right thing by featuring Hutton after J.Crew did and released this cover of its own catalog:

Photo courtesy of J.Crew

If you go after, you have to be better than the original (at least that is what J.Lo repeated on American Idol last night every time someone auditioned with her song). Alas, back to my original point, I think there is a great opportunity for Chico’s to go after an under served consumer demographic- the stylish over 40 year -old woman who is aware of fashion trends and wants to see them seamlessly incorporated into simple and quality clothing (specifically knitwear).   So, now that has all been said, let me provide the intro: Joan Vass, meet Chico’s; Chico’s meet Joan Vass.  I shall leave you two to discuss how to make my birthday wish come true.

*All photos not credited above are courtesy of Chicos.com