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Friday, August 26, 2011

Have I mentioned this week that I really love what I do?

Another exciting chapter in the many fun things I do with my job occurred last night. I attended the grand opening of The Limited at Streets of Southpoint Mall. Part of the grand opening events included a fashion show, and wow - loved the fashions for fall!

The Limited, under the guidance of relatively new CEO Linda Heasely, is looking to remake their mark. Linda has been CEO at the Ohio-based company for the last three and a half years, and is, predictably, charged with making The Limited even more successful than it is.

Yes, they still make great business suit separates with three different fits of pants, skirts and jackets that are washable and easy to wear, from business casual to corporate. Similar to what I teach my clients, The Limited is hoping to teach their customers to wear what I like to call lifestyle dressing. The Limited hopes to move women towards making buying decisions when building their wardrobe to encompass all aspects of their lives. The idea is that by taking separates and what I call underpinnings (tops and sweaters) and changing up the looks with accessories and shoes for weekend wear, you will be able to extend your wardrobe with The Limited from weekend to office and back again. Pretty much, you’ll find what you need at The Limited for whatever you do.

I had an opportunity, and I don't say that lightly ‘cuz it’s a huge deal, to sit down with both Linda and Senior Vice President of Design, Elliot Staples, after the fashion show. I approached Linda first and before the fashion show to introduce myself. She is lovely, and I mean that in every sense of the word. Petite and chic with fabulous trademark round frames. We talked about the fact that I had worn The Limited clothing years ago when I was in high school and later in college, and that naturally led to a conversation about the challenge of getting customers today to understand the importance of buying core basics for a wardrobe when young and learning how to build a varied wardrobe from there.

Linda agrees with me that the challenge is to buy quality pieces and not look for the "quick fix" of buying an outfit for a night out. In essence, training younger buyers to not run to H & M or Forever 21 for a lesser quality, trendier garment for that one time wear, but to think in the long term and buy something that looks great and adds to your wardrobe in a more positive way. My own personal challenge is my college age daughter, who of course I love dearly, does shop for the moment of the event and not for the long term. Quality over quantity! Buy that wow silver sequin top that is $40 for work under a jacket, worn over a white blouse with the collar pop up or for night wear with a pair of jeans or jeggings! That is how to evaluate the cost per wearing an item - whether you can wear it multiple times and in different situations.

I noticed also that the The Limited has worked very hard to introduce their new brand positioning. I asked Linda how they have done that and she mentioned through updating their stores with a whole new look, a print campaign in all major magazines that highlights their new look, fashion events like the grand opening I attended last night, visually appealing new store windows (I must agree), and engaging their customers in conversation using social media. Linda has had the company revamp the website and now provides an e-commerce shopping cart so you can buy things online if they aren’t in the stores already. She worked closely with the creative team to map The Limited's new direction and marketing campaigns and has returned The Limited to profitability for the first time in 17 years.

Linda is obviously a strategic thinker. I asked her how her background, a degree from Harvard and stints with Timberland and CVS, has helped her move The Limited to this new-found success. She gave credit to her wonderful hard working team and the added fashion strength of Elliot Staples. She gave her design team the challenge of coming up with 8 items each season that women could mix and match to get a month’s worth of new looks. Every woman is looking to get more bang for their buck, and she recognizes that in any economy that sentiment will remain true. She wants women that don't necessarily have the money to spend on many new looks to have clothes in their closet and to find relevance in what they want and need. Linda fervently believes that The Limited can do that for women, and after spending time with her, I have no doubt she will achieve her goals. I look forward to meeting her again and appreciated her honestly and approach.

And for all the information she gave me, the only request she made of me?.....getting women to try pegged and pleated pants. I can work on that!

Watch for more blogs on Elliot Staples, head designer at The Limited, the actual fashion show and my two winners of the $50 gift card contest.

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