By  on June 18, 2007

Inside Talbots INC.'S spacious and serene headquarters, the sense is that the winds of fashion are shifting in the right direction.

"There is a move away from that more 'contemporized' look and back to a clean all-American sportswear look that's modern and not real trendy. That should be great for us," said Harold Bosworth, Talbots' executive vice president and chief merchandising officer. "Talbots is for the customer who is young at heart, but doesn't want to look like a trend-setting 25- or 30-year-old."

The fashion chain is coming off a challenging spring marked by soft sales in casual merchandise, but it is anticipating momentum this fall. It's a season for offering classics in a "crisp, modern way, with less contemporary styling," Bosworth said.

Misses' sportswear has been awash with embellishments, detailing, and washed out and pigment-dyed garments, but is becoming "cleaned up, less embellished, less styled and less distressed," Bosworth said. "We've seen the trend on the runways, on the streets of Paris, in fashion publications, and we see our customer gravitating to clean, simple, but elegant styles."

The Talbots team has charted a fall program that will be marked by men's wear-inspired clean, pinstripe or tweed separates offset by a singular romantic flourish or detail; layering with chunky cardigans, vests, tunics or lightweight knit tops; dresses, with an emphasis on crepe and simplicity; the color gray as a backdrop for jewel tones and subdued metallics, and classic American sportswear such as cuffed wide-leg trousers in lightweight wool gabardine, velvet blazers and short trenches. In shoes, kiltie loafers, platform pumps in a men's wear plaid and penny loafer slingbacks are key.

Bosworth describes the presentation as "colorful, feminine, wear-now and emotional." Fall goods begin to appear in August, and Labor Day week marks the real onset of the season. Nine months of work is required to get products in the stores, including an initial 13-week stretch from concept previews to final product recaps and walk-throughs, where goods hanging on grids are scrutinized before the merchandise is sent off to be manufactured.

As much as anybody in the organization, Bosworth must know the Talbots customer and the trends in fashion. He's responsible for merchandising, product development and design for Talbots' women's businesses in the stores, catalogue and online. In addition, he oversees merchandise planning and distribution.

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