Cintra Wilson wrote an alarmingly glowing review of Ann Taylor for the Critical Shopper column and part of me totally thought this was an act of contrition, penance for her J.C. Penney write-up that got all the REAL AMERICANS aggy and made them gravy their pants in an bingo-winged uproar. But then, and not only because I maybe thought I saw Bret Michaels in the street in the Flatiron district, I went IN to Ann Taylor-not even the flagship mind you-and lo (or LOFT) it was good.
Cintra’s review, which name drops Dior, Prada, Lanvin, Herrera, and Balenciaga, feels crazypants and megaconciliatory but it’s not. There truly is an ambiguity in the suit-weight fabrics where things just FEEL expensive. But on that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe tip, it’s the pain-in-the-ass seam finishes, brazenly visible darts, elongated gauntlet cuffs on sweaters, and ballsy architectural collars that play to this price-point’s core competencies. I know EXACTLY what I’m paying for in the $200 blazer and while I personally don’t actually think it’s as sexy as say a Balenciaga (for that you would’ve had to make the whole thing about 15% longer, drop the lapel the same percentage +4, and hell, maybe make it double breasted but not so tight that the fucker looks cross-eyed), it could certainly pass for at least a Piazza Sempione.
They still do some annoyingly LADYDRAG things like unnecessarily shirred collars on otherwise straightforward trenches but they don’t try to make cashmiracles from acrylic. In fact, they don’t DO anything particularly magical except make the trunks on their sweaters longer and make hardware on bags matte and substantial. But the really nice thing about Ann Taylor right now is that while the knits and the bouclÃƒÂ© cropped jackets with 3/4 sleeves and lowered arm’s eyes and grosgrainribbondetailblablabla are all HELLA cute if you work in an office where dudes exclusively use Molton Brown toiletries, there are things for the more, ahem, housepants-wearing amongst us.
The new senior VP of design Lisa Axelson isn’t so new. She’s been there a year and maybe I’m totally wrong on the production lead times but I swear there are errant pieces that hint at impending goodlookingness like a jersey cocoon shrug that TOTALLY and successfully rips off a cute Norma Kamali for Everlast piece (before everything went pear-shaped over there in the mien of Eastern European Hooker fug) and a black charmeuse shift that is so nondescript that it, like, HAS TO BE Elizabeth and James except that it obviously isn’t. And these guys are hardcore on sale. Like thirty bucks.
And while some people WILL BUG at some of the higher pricetags just as we ALL BUGGED when Banana Republic started charging $300 for shoes like it was whatevs, this collection really does body Club Monaco, BR, and even Kate Spade handily. And besides, and not that this should matter but it does, check out what Axelson looks like vs this monster. I rest my case.