By  on December 30, 2008

Anthropologie has developed a series of reinvention workshops for shoppers. They aren’t your typical in-store retail events during which new products are unveiled with hoopla or a percentage of sales on a given day are dedicated to a charity, though.

Rather, the reinvention workshops “aren’t designed to sell anything,” said Wendy Wurtzburger, Anthropologie’s chief merchandising officer, explaining that the goal is to teach women how to get more out of the existing items in their wardrobes.

“We wanted to share something really personal, which is our creative side, on a one-on-one level,” said Wurtzburger. “Our stores are communities. Our customers have relationships with the staff. Also, it was an opportunity for our designers to interact with our customers and get a sense of who they are. The more we know, the more it helps us to understand her.” Wurtzburger explained that Anthropologie executives “like to be out in the stores and learn about the customer. For a designer to work this way with a customer builds on that. It supports the idea that Anthropologie is not just a place to shop — it’s a community, a lifestyle and a feeling.”

The retailer said giving new life to old things is especially relevant given the state of the economy, adding that customers will discover how “extraordinary and meaningful a hand-crafted, remade gift can be.”

The first 12 workshops, which attracted about 15 to 20 consumers each, were held between Dec. 1 and 9. Further workshops are planned for the new year, although no dates have been set, said Wurtzburger.

At the December workshops, customers learned how to refashion blouses, rework cardigan sweaters, revamp gloves and hats and renew scarves. Wurtzburger, who admitted she doesn’t know how to sew well, came to a session with an old Paul Smith sweater. “I had loved that sweater,” she said. “I worked with one designer, and she turned it inside out and turned it from a pullover to a cardigan. She sewed a ribbon placket on it.”

Wurtzburger, who has a large collection of apparel and accessories, said, “I like to keep [my things] and put them away for awhile, then bring things out again. There’s usually something you want to change.”

Other seminars were devoted to making hair accessories, wrapping packages with scarves, reinventing plush toys and revitalizing ornaments. The events were held at Anthropologie stores in Portland, Ore.; Los Angeles; Berkeley, Newport Beach and Santa Monica, Calif.; Boulder, Colo.; Short Hills, N.J.; San Antonio; Dallas; Chestnut Ridge, Mass.; Tampa, Fla., and Minneapolis.

“We really didn’t do it for the reason of getting sales,” Wurtzburger stressed. “Our customers have relationships with the staff. We inspire her with our creativity. It was really a gift.”

Wurtzburger couldn’t help adding: “I hope people ended up shopping after the course.”

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