Sunday, October 17, 2010

Interview: The FLOTUS in NY&CO

Founded in 1918 and known as one of the oldest retailers in the country, “New York and Company”, formerly known as Lerners New York has always prided itself on bringing runway fashion to retail floors. According its official website, one of the company’s goals is to “provide fashionable clothing for REAL women with REAL lives.” NY&CO has constantly been reviewed and kept in the fashion industry’s spotlight from popular print and online publications such as Women’s Wear Daily and I wanted to discover just how important fashion really was to this popular chain. I walked into one of the into the company’s Denver district, perused some of the new clothing hitting the floors and made my way to the back office to speak with Jason Anderson, the store sales lead for one of New York and Company’s top selling stores in the region to get his take on fashion, his company and the question I’ve been trying to answer, who or what has truly caused this new boom of diversity in the fashion industry.
“Fashion and politics. Most don’t even assume those two work, but without one we couldn’t have the other” Anderson started as he pushed the mounds of papers from his desk to make room for my laptop. “And furthermore, people don’t even think that fashion, politics and retail go together. They think, ‘oh retail can’t possibly be in line with fashion trends’ Oh they most certainly do” he finished.

Anderson has been in the retail and fashion worlds for over 10 years, and through them he has worked to gain the knowledge needed to further himself in the retail portion of the fashion industry. “New York and Company is the place to come for business minded women. NY&CO and retail in general brings fashion to consumers who can’t afford what’s on rodeo drive. But, you can’t do that unless you have a grasp on the industry you work in.” he elaborated. Through our time together, Anderson explained that he never really followed politics unless it had something to do with his industry. “I don’t pay attention to CNN or any of the political races. But, when WWD [Women’s Wear Daily] starts talking about Michelle [Obama] or why wearing red in Japan during a business interview is considered taboo, my ears perk up.”

Anderson and I began our discussion with what the new trends were in the industry, how cardigans and business slacks are making their way off the top designer’s mannequins and trickling down to retail, finally ending with his take on the new bouts of diversity appearing in many of the top fashion periodicals and designer’s fall lines. Although he was aware of the budding appearances of multiple cultures in the fashion industry, he had an issue contributing it all to the FLOTUS (first lady of the United States). “I mean, diversity has always been a part of fashion to me. It may not have been as prominent in the past, but, it’s always been around and Michelle can’t keep being pegged as the ONLY one who brought diversity to the industry into fruition.”
Earlier in the week, Michelle Obama traveled to Denver where she led a lunch campaign for democratic senator Michael Bennett. While her presence and clear support for Bennett, many of those flashing bulbs captured the style that, although may not have been the sole reason for women of color rising in the fashion industry, Anderson still claimed many are trying to copy.

“She tends to steer clear of what’s considered proper for the FLOTUS, but, I think her suit [during the lunch] exuded business. Kind of classic, reminded me of past icons. And everyone copies icons.”
To Anderson, having Michelle Obama in office has been a contribution to African American’s being featured more and as a result, retail chains that focus on re-vamping runway styles, are creating “clothing with a more fitted style, adhering to curves and producing more styles that work for more women.” However, Anderson did bring up another possible reason for the drastic changes occurring.
“I think fashion deals with trends and diversity can be considered one of those trends. Times are changing and regardless of [Michelle] being the FLOTUS or not, Fashion will still change with the times. I wouldn’t consider her to be the only source of change in fashion. Other people and situations need to be considered, not just Obama.”
In the end, Anderson described in few words where he thought the fashion industry was heading. Since fashion is constantly evolving, he believed that he couldn’t really elaborate on where it would go. “This industry never gives strict direction in my opinion. I have no clue where it’s headed. One day black is cool. Next year, the new it thing could be obese women. Who knows?”
Jason Anderson shed some light on some outlooks in the fashion industry in regards to politics and diversity. But, as stated earlier, there may be other factors to consider than just that of Michelle Obama. Could her impact just be the scratch on the surface?

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