Monday, November 26, 2007

Anne Klein - Isabel Toledo = Boring Sportswear

An Anne Klein look by Isabel Toledo, Spring/Summer 2008, which won't hit stores next year

In an effort to update the brand and give the company a stronger, more contemporary image across the board, Anne Klein, a division of Jones Apparel Group Inc., decided a year ago to enter the (already relatively crowded) designer sportswear arena. To fill the role of creative director, the company hired Isabel Toledo, who already had her own eponymous line in the same category and stocked at stores like Nordstrom. The line was meant to compete with other modern American sportswear names, somewhat edgier than Michael Kors, but maybe slightly tamer than Marc Jacobs.

On the runway, there were clear influences of the New York art world in Toledo's use of prints and colors, which is fitting considering that Isabel's husband is none other than Nordstrom fashion illustrator extraordinaire Ruben Toledo. Editors and store buyers loved it, with Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus stocking up on fresh classics, like delectably detailed, printed shirtdresses and crisp white shirts with a gorgeous, feminine tux pleats. The fashion-foward ad campaigns featured Stella Tennant and longtime Anne Klein model Carolyn Murphy in a much more conceptual narrative than any prior campaign.

But, sadly, the designer line is being shuttered in order for the company to focus more on their bridge- and better-priced collections (which have generally been pretty staid and ho-hum for ages). It's too bad because Isabel Toledo was the breath of fresh air Anne Klein, and indeed America's wilting fashion reputation, sorely needed.

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