Iris Apfel is standing in her Park Avenue apartment, the fingertips of one hand touching the fingertips of the other in a pose that’s taken on an almost meditative-like quality. The image of Apfel is one that will be used in an upcoming campaign for Melbourne-based retailer Blue Illusion.
“I’ve become a model in my antiquity,” Apfel said wryly of her recent project.
Blue Illusion’s digital and print campaign is set to launch Monday to highlight its fall collection, thus signaling the beginning of a strategy focused on winning over the U.S. market.
“Our brand loves telling stories and I had really wanted to get Iris on board around six years ago,” explained Donna Guest, who cofounded Blue Illusion with her husband Danny Guest 15 years ago.
There’s a story behind just about every accessory, sourced from Apfel’s personal collection, and featured in the campaign imagery shot at her New York residence.
A good case in point are the red, oversize beads Apfel and her cousin found in a bead shop. She had her husband string them into necklaces as a form of physical therapy following a series of hand surgeries.
“I like the clothes because they’re very basic,” Apfel said of Blue Illusion, which she said she wasn’t familiar with until contacted by the brand. “They’re well priced. They’re very well designed. Good fabrics, good fits.”
It proved a small feat for Blue Illusion to even reach Apfel with no Web site listing her contact information. She doesn’t use e-mail and she handles all of her business affairs for the simple reason that “I find agents are a pain and these interns you get just screw everything up.”
Apfel’s wit and unique sense of style is what drew the retailer to her, according to Guest. It’s a particularly important story to sell as the company seeks to offer itself up to the U.S. market as a place for anyone to shop regardless of age.
The contemporary retailer, which draws inspiration from French fashion, develops its line in collaboration with French milliners, jewelry designers and artists. Most of its items retail from $69 to $219, with outerwear generally more than $500.
“Our fashion is directed at an ageless woman in the sense that they’ve always had a great sense of style and basically wear clothes that look great on them,” Guest said. “We’ve been known to dress grandmas, mothers and young adults.”
The retailer’s fall collection includes staples in the way of a three-in-one trenchcoat, leather jacket and knit pieces.
Blue Illusion counts 126 stores mostly in Australia as well as New Zealand. It has three stores in the U.S., all of which are located in Northern California — in Menlo Park, Burlingame and Los Gatos.
Guest said the company about a year ago chose Northern California to begin testing the waters in the U.S. for its similar climate to Melbourne.
Up next for the company is a store in San Carlos, located between San Francisco and San Jose. The company has set a goal of having 10 stores in the U.S. over the next three years and during that time frame sees itself moving south toward Los Angeles.
“Our strategy is to open them in clusters so that we can make sure they’re all supported,” Guest said.
There’s also room to grow in New Zealand, although the immediate focus remains the U.S. “because of the similar customer base and the fact that we speak the same language,” Guest said. “We just felt the fit is absolutely perfect. We think that the customers are similar in the sense of style.”
Blue Illusion later this month plans to relaunch a U.S. Web site following a re-skinning of the platform to make it more reflective of the brand. April will see the launch of a loyalty program and a mobile app.