Selling to Your Capabilities: Macy’s Enters the 21st Century

February 19 2014

Continuing along with one of my retail brand obsessions, I’m wondering about Macy’s intentions regarding their Fulton Mall store in Brooklyn. The retail environment on the mall is picking up speed, most recently with the addition of a Banana Republic Factory Store. As I’ve written about before, Macy’s on the mall is a sad, sad store. This Macy’s offers up a hot zero even if you were so parched for shopping that any old purchase would do.

Last month, Macy’s announced that they are going to start looking at their old downtown stores throughout the country with the intention of creating a younger, more urban concept store akin to Bloomingdale’s Soho. Apparently the Brooklyn store is going to be the testing ground for the new concept. Will it help to make our neighborhood Macy’s on the mall a shopping destination? I don’t know. Personally, I love Macy’s Herald Square for their capabilities rather than their attributes. In other words, for their prices. I go there for the crazy markdowns that make me wonder, “What is their retail margin? How do they stay in business with these kind of sales”?

What are Macy's attributes? Comprehensive and democratic (anyone can afford to shop there, particularly with those sales). The store serves every demographic, covering everything from the plus-size Macy’s woman to kids, juniors, and the Rachel Roy shopper (that would be me). Can they start to lay claim to a hipper audience, with the new urban concept, one who is interested in fast fashion, cooler design, urban culture, and sex appeal? This will be an interesting challenge for them as they fight for market share on the mall against H & M for the fast fashionistas, Banana Republic for the office gals and moms, and Century 21 for the middle-of-the-road bargain girls. As always, stay tuned.


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Fashion Week February 2014: Jill Stuart

February 12 2014

This past weekend, I had the opportunity and great good fun to attend Jill Stuart’s Fall 2014 fashion show at the tents in Lincoln Center. In reality, going to the tents is nothing like Project Runway, kids. It’s a fairly straightforward experience, with the audience sitting in a dark space constructed with a kind of ad hoc feeling, bleachers, and a white runway. The difference from one show to the next is in the music, the hair and make-up and of course, the clothes.

Jill Stuart is known for her feminine dresses, and she has been selling them successfully for quite a long time. She was born into a fashion family and immersed in the fashion world from a young age, and amazingly sold her first jewelry collection to Bloomingdales at age fifteen. Along with five hundred other retail outlets, she still sells there today, and even created an exclusive collection for Bloomies for the 2013 holiday season. Interestingly enough, one of her earliest collections was heavily featured in “Clueless,” a film that was infused with the upscale, girly, socially exclusive and fun clothing worn by Alicia Silverstone and her faux friends.

Going into the show, my impression of her Jill Stuart's design aesthetic was girly, easy to wear, and middle-of-the-road. I was wildly surprised to see magnificently detailed dresses hit the runway, with a feeling of incredible modernity in cut and embellishments. For the first time, I became a believer. In her press handout card, the collection was framed as being: irregular beauty, untameable, easy, boyish, effortless, unimpressionable and adorned. From a brand perspective, I understand this particular collection as being easy and effortless (which are in fact identical brand attributes), adorned (a capability rather than an attribute) and boyish in that the shapes of the clothes were quite angular and clean. Does it follow my impression of the brand as a whole? A qualified yes. And in fashion, is that enough? Again, a qualified yes!

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Brand Meld: Fashion at its best, and most curious

August 14 2013

What happens when you have two brilliant designers with similar sensibilities, one who has rarely made a misstep in his storied career, and the other a rebellious, self-destructive genius? Obviously, you put the two of them together, mix it up, and come out with some extraordinary, unbelievably desirable evening wear.

                                  Images via and

John Galliano and Oscar de La Renta are both about all-out glamour, both with a deep understanding of what makes a woman look and feel like Rita Hayworth or Ava Gardner. Galliano has always been more subversive, dark, and gothic than de la Renta, but the clothes that come out of the melding of his dark and light attributes are always spectacular, modern and yet with a deep reverence and knowledge of the past. His evening gowns can be theatrical – theatre married with the Duchess of Devonshire married with a sex club in some dark corner of the world.

De La Renta, on the other hand, has always called upon his Latin roots and love of women to inform his designs. He lives in the same sophisticated, refined world as the women he sells to – socialites around the world, women who want to look feminine and desirable. His work is meticulously adorned and often filled with a color and fire not frequently seen at the highest levels of haute couture.

De la Renta always claims that he won’t retire, but now in his 80s, he needs to plan for the future of his brand. The whole fashion industry has waited to see what would happen after Galliano’s try-out earlier this year, as at their roots, these two designers have a tremendous amount of crossover in their brand sensibilities. Fashion is the best place to study how brands are constructed and maintained, and in this regard, de la Renta would be making a smart move for his brand legacy and its ability to survive. Galliano will take the de la Renta brand and sex it up in a darker way, but he has the same understanding of how fantastic a woman feels when she is dressed, and desired, like a goddess.

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Dreamy Jennifer Aniston

October 25 2011

The other night at the gym I happened to catch “Inside The Actor’s Studio,” with James Lipton.  He was interviewing Jennifer Aniston, who I have to admit I’ve never been the biggest fan of.  I’m more in the ‘Jennifer’s OK’ group.  What I found interesting, though, was her admission that she had been a dreamy child who didn’t pay attention in class.   As she began to go into detail about her parents’ divorce, she had already identified one of her attributes: dreamy.

Aniston went on to describe the trauma of coming home one day at the age of 9 to find that her father had gone. Lipton pointed out that every successful actor he has interviewed has come from either a divorced or broken home.  In other words, your creativity can be directly related to trauma in either your nuclear family or extended family of origin. I’ve seen this as a pattern in my own clients, and I am attentively listening for some kind of family trauma to come up during our initial discovery and brand attribute sessions.

It’s important to understand that a complicated background is frequently the fuel for creativity, not simply something to be “overcome.”  To embrace and use trauma consciously can lead to fulfillment and actualization, and it’s good to know that the throughline of trauma and creativity is the hallmark of many highly expressive and successful people.




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