ANTHROPOLOGIE: FOR THE URBAN GROWUP
Byline: Elaine Glusac
CHICAGO — I don’t have wrinkles or gray hairs — yet. I don’t need them to know time is advancing. I have Urban Outfitters.
Beginning with grunge several years ago and extending to Seventies retro styles that flood the racks today, I increasingly found myself left out of the Urban merchandise mix. My first impulse was to blame the buyers of the Philadelphia-based contemporary clothing and home goods chain. But then I began recognizing people I know in the goods. My college-age neighbor often wears the velvet embroidered tunics and long A-line print skirts that strike me as a bad trip regurgitated. I think I would have liked the $13 brass wall sconces and $20 aluminum martini sets, if I were again in college. And a $14 purple, fake fur covered number struck me as the perfect gift for a 14-year-old niece.
As an aunt-to-the-target-consumer, I wandered the enormous, industrial-designed and incense-scented store at Walton and Rush ignored by the multipierced clerks. Time, I found, to move on — but not before I bought a series of ageless pillar candles.
But where to? Where to find a distinctive mix of decor for person and home that speaks of individuality without striking a teen-wannabe pose? Leave it to Urban’s owners to come up with the answer and call it Anthropologie.
It’s funny to find yourself translated in marketing terms: “older,” “settled in careers,” “more upscale,” “casual but not trendy,” “sophisticated.” But these were the apt descriptions a spokesman for the retailer applied to the new store at 1120 North State Street and its customers.
Anthropologie is “meant to outfit a type of woman who maybe grew up with Urban, who has a unique sense of style and doesn’t shop the chains. She loves to mix and match and is creative,” said store manager Nancy Niland.
My creative chord was plucked upon arrival when I was greeted by the most fantastic of home accessories — a peeling, weathered old boat from Wisconsin. I wistfully traveled through a series of home displays in styles ranging from chrome modern to safari romantic. An inviting four-poster bed in the back of the store was the backdrop for the effortless transition to clothing, including silk pajamas by Underwriters and flannels by Nick ‘n Nora.
I could practically hear the word “lifestyle” haunting the racks as I perused the tastefully trendy apparel in segments referred to internally as “Go to the Mall,” with shearling car coats for suburban moms; “Modernist Woman,” with Prada-inspired narrow sweaters and miniskirts, and “Ski Girl,” devoted to zip-front sweaters and jeans by Lucky and Buffalo.
The style I wanted most in my life just then was a pre-1930 wire wall locker set, which was unpriced — a bad sign, though Niland assured me that it, along with the Wisconsin boat and a vast array of unusual antiques used for display, eventually would be sold. They included an Indian wedding chair ($895) and a decorative rusted iron sphere ($475).
Compared with the antiques, the apparel looked affordable. I zeroed in on a diaphanous shirt with a swirling rust-and-green print. It was $68 and a saleswoman assured me it would make a great statement at a party. I pictured her picturing me in the standout shirt over slim, flared black pants with a sloppy-trendy up-do, holding a martini glass and air-kissing other guests. I liked the shirt, but not the lifestyle it demanded.
I made for the pillar candles amassed on a table, their soft butter-toned wax reassuring and familiar. I checked my Urban bag for the candles I’d just purchased: same size, same price. The difference: no cellophane wrapper at Anthro, a selling point for the senses. Which proves that Anthropologie knows selling: It’s all in how you wrap it — or unwrap it.