Minty Fresh

Mint and aquas look especially fresh with off-beat colors such as citrine and pops of bright coral.As a dedicated color hunter, I’m always scouting for colors or color families that are quietly emerging or haven’t been important in a while. The pale to medium greenish aqua family is sneaking up on us, with delicate seafoam, dinner mint green and green-toned turquoise washing up on all levels of the apparel market. They range from super pale, to dusty to white-washed brights. Except for the palest of mint greens, these colors have been omnipresent in home and stationery for a long time, but haven’t been important in women’s apparel.

It is often hard to explain the genesis of a color trend. Designers are influenced by color trend services, social influences and personal and brand preferences. We have been slugging it through tough times and this optimistic, sun-kissed color family is a virtual walk down Worth Avenue. These beachy-keen, retro 50’s, colors pack a sugary wallop. They are all over the market in collections as varied as Rachel Roy, Diane Von Furstenburg, Lululemon, Converse, 7 for All Mankind, Hudson, Free People, , Rag and Bone, St. John and J. Crew, in everything including dresses, tops, jeans, yoga wear, sneakers and sweaters.

The surrounding color players, will keep the palette modern and out of matronly, insipid territory. Pastel seafoam or minty green looks especially fresh paired with off-beat colors or deep pops such as citrine or bright coral. These colors are well anchored with pure white and navy neutrals. Head-to-toe dinner mint or greenish turq can a cause a serious toothache without an unexpected, modern accent such as a nude shoe or coral tote.

This fresh, emotionally charged color family is sure to gain importance in upcoming seasons.

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Neon Lights

Live life in the glow of neon lights in 2012!

Color trends evolve and something happens in the social mood that turns colors that might have been previously unappealing, into a “must-have” sensation. For me, that is neon and heart-stopping bright colors. The are so prevalent in the market this season and sure to reach a fever pitch over the summer. The charge is led by chartreuse, shocking pink, safety orange, reflex royal and washed out neon yellow.

Perhaps, it is the pure energy of these outrageously bright colors? We have been in a recessionary funk for so long, and it is hard to be blase in the presence of neon lights. They are suddenly the essence of modern style and shed new light on a pessimistic period. They are also integral to the active sport inspired, mega-trend in fashion.

I have never been a fan on the uber-bright, but have already purchased an in-your-face chartreuse skirt this year. It is provides a bolt of lightning, every time I see it in my predominantly black and white wardrobe. It is so unfamiliar, it is a new beginning, a new life for 2012.

Neon is showing up everywhere on items like skinny jeans (Rag & Bone), dresses (Michael Kors), bags (Rebecca Minkoff), innovative colorblocked pieces (BCBG) athletic shoes (Asics), casual apparel (J Crew) and yoga wear (Zella).

The modern way to pull off these explosive colors  is to ground them with a neutral, especially heather grey or white. For a dangerous, high-voltage look combine two to three colors in one outfit. For the faint of heart, a trickle of neon trim on sneakers, pumps, a tote, belt or scarf  is enough of a good thing to change your fashion fortunes in 2012.

Talbot’s – Luffing Sailor

I originally published this post in February of 2012. Yesterday Sycamore Partners agreed to buy Talbot’s in a deal for $369 million, including net debt. This is good news for Talbot’s but the massive work to restore this shipwrecked brand is yet to come.

February 2012

I had the good fortune of meeting Nancy Talbot,  or  I should say “Mrs. Talbot” as everyone respectfully addressed her. She was a woman with a point-of-view, opinionated and had a clear vision for the iconic retail brand she had founded. Talbots was synonymous with a monied, New England coastal, lifestyle. Her customers played exclusive sports, golf, sailing, riding and tennis. They volunteered at non-profits. They had the luxury of choosing not to work. If  they worked, they were lawyers, investment bankers or women rapidly climbing the corporate ladder. If this wasn’t your real lifestyle, shopping at Talbot’s was entre to the exclusive club.

The stores felt residential. Her brand was defined by a touch of whimsy and happy color. She assorted her stores from hundreds of creative vendors, but it had the consistency of  one discriminating eye. She was a visionary brand builder in the league of a Mickey Drexler (J. Crew) or Reed Krakoff (Coach), for her time. There was a definitive social status for shopping at the red-doored, suburban stores.

Can Talbot's brand ever be restored?

Can Talbot’s brand ever be restored?

Talbot’s as it stands today is a sailor luffing in a sea of retail sameness. It lost its hard-won personality. If you woke up in a store, there would be no identifying clues to where you were.  Long ago, it lost it’s  cache of the New England good life. The series of owners and CEOs since Mrs. Talbot, didn’t understand what they were trading away. They didn’t understand how the customer evolved and weren’t protective of the exclusivity, the social aspect of the brand. They now design all of their own products and even with this centralized control, they’ve lost that one-eyed point of view. They played it safe and didn’t take any chances. In a quest for growth and uniformity, they opened hundreds of bland mall-stores. In recent years they stole other retail identities and zig-zagged product. Sales proliferated and it became “common” to shop at Talbot’s. Authenticity can’t be faked.

The Talbot’s customer was also a Coach, Burberry, J. Crew and Ralph Lauren customer. These are some of the hottest apparel and accessory brands in the world today. They stand for something, they take creative risks.  The common denominator is each one of these,  is it run by a visionary brand builder, not a committee allowed to sterilize risk taking based on historical sales. At these companies, fashion leadership dominates over history, while brand heritage is respected and evolved. Other brands are thriving in the classic fashion arena, Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Milly, Hunter Boots, Sperry, Jack Rogers to name a few. The former Talbot’s customer loves them all.

Talbots is on the block again and will inevitably be picked by another optimistic bidder. They will shutter stores and cut expenses and search for the holy grail of retail CEO’s. We are still grossly overstored and only true leaders will thrive. The results will be the same once again, if they can’t create social status and demand for shopping at this once venerable brand. They have to find leadership that truly understands that fashion is show business and have to restore credibility to the total brand experience.

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