Reflecting On 60 Years Of Ann Taylor With Creative Director Lisa Axelson

by Daniel Chivu

(NEW YORK) It’s always an editrix-studded affair when Ann Taylor presents their latest collection, and their Fall 2014 preview this week was no exception. The likes of Kyle Anderson, Cindy Weber Cleary, Rickie de Sole, and Adam Glassman perused the chic business-casual wares, interspersed with animal prints, colorblocking, and sleek leather booties. The retailer is in the midst of celebrating their 60th anniversary, but there were no tell-tale signs of celebration. Pourquoi? The designs spoke for themselves! In place of birthday cake and splashy announcements, there was a well-curated collection of clothes, shoes, and other accoutrements. We nabbed a moment with creative director Lisa Axelson to chat about the big milestone, buzzy collabs, and bestsellers.

Give us the details on your Fall 2014 collection, please!
We’re celebrating our 60th anniversary this year, but this season is all about redefining a modern vision for Ann. We’ve been around forever and everyone knows what we’ve stood for in the past, so I wanted to make sure we get better at articulating this modern view, which addresses what I call the modern closet.

And what’s in that modern working girl’s closet?
It’s about all these great ready-to-wear pieces, which is really the foundation of your closet. It’s not just about suits anymore. None of us are one dimensional; some days you wake up and you’re feeling laid back. There are other days where you want to be more buttoned up. I love the idea of Ann being more versatile and varied in that respect.

With all of these modern pieces, is there still a full suit in the collection?
There is. What I love it is that we looked at it as a suit, and then we spent time breaking it apart. So we asked questions like, does the jacket will look good with a pair of jeans? Does the skirt stand alone? Is it interesting enough to just pair it with the top? Are those pants are your go-to pants? We were looking at it as a suit, but we’re examining it like sportswear.

A 60th anniversary is a big one. Do you have any plans to celebrate this milestone?
We’d rather talk about modernizing and bringing youthful energy to the brand! As the head of design I’m taking it as a moment to pause, reflect, and celebrate that we’re still around and thriving. Then we’ll keep moving forward.

Intriguing! Will this year bring any more exciting collaborations, like the brand’s pair-up with Kate Hudson?
There will other collaborations in the future, but none that I can describe in detail.

Who’s your dream collaborator?
For me as a designer, I would selfishly love the opportunity to work with somebody and use that moment to talk creatively. I would love to work with Stella McCartney! I’m a huge fan of her tailoring, and she does amazing suits.

What’s the bestselling item in Ann Taylor history?
The number one item, that’s consistent season after season, is the Ann cardigan. It’s a simple little shrunken jewel-neck cardigan. It’s one of those iconic pieces for Ann, but it’s evolved. The yarns evolve season after season. Right now it’s in stores, but it’s in this cool techy yarn, which reflects our modern spirit. We change it up, so in the fall we coupled a sweater with leather front panels. It’s a piece she relates to, and consistently wants, but we try to move it forward with whatever’s happening in fashion.

During your Spring preview, back in January, you told us you were wearing a Fall 2014 jacket. Are you wearing any Spring 2015 wares today?
I’m wearing a winter jacket, just based on the weather today! I’m also wearing a Fall shirt, a Winter coat, and past season boots. They never have my sample size in the boots, so I can’t wear forward-season boots.

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