Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — Some traditions die hard.
Lord & Taylor, the 84-unit division of The May Department Stores Co., has relied entirely on illustration for its retail ad campaigns since the early 1800s. But now, for the first time, the 175-year-old chain is adding photography to the mix.
Its signature look was shaken up March 11 in a double-page ad spread called “Prep Rally,” with photographs of women wearing dresses and sportswear by Shoshanna, Tommy Jeans, Perry Ellis, Esprit, French Connection, ABS by Allen Schwartz, Anne Klein II, and Identity, one of the retailer’s private labels.
Not that L&T has hung up the pen and ink altogether — an ad the following week showed a drawing of an ABS look.
“We will continue to register trend statements with illustrations,” said Lavelle Olexa, senior vice president of fashion merchandising. “Our advertising will include photography and illustration.”
The effort is part of a mission to update the venerable retailer’s image, implemented by Jane T. Elfers, who, last May at the age of 39, was named president and chief executive officer of the chain. She’s one of the youngest ceo’s in retailing. Besides advertising, its catalogs, store interiors and windows have had a makeover, too. Gone are the traditional awnings that hung over the Fifth Avenue flagship, making it easier to see the windows, which are now under Olexa’s direction. The store is also more frequently mixing art and fashion in its displays. For example, a recent window theme presented artwork from the Goedhuis Contemporary, an art gallery in London, along with dresses by designers Yeohlee and Han Fen. Other windows spotlighted Hunt Slonen’s paintings. “We’re continuing to support artists where appropriate. We feel very strongly about the melding of art and fashion,” said Olexa.
The spring catalog, sent to customers last week, has taken a stylish turn, too. Now perfect-bound, the catalog is using heavier paper and features a single image per page. Last year’s spring book crammed up to 25 different items, from apparel to accessories on one page. L&T also improved its models and included more high-end resources in the new catalog, like the Oscar de la Renta Collection, Bill Blass and Ralph Lauren Black Label.
The store, which has billed itself as “America’s dress address,” also revamped its dress catalog. Previously, it showed at least four looks on a page, along with shoes, bags, bracelets and hair accessories. The new dress mailer, slated to arrive in homes March 31, generally has one look on a page, uses heavier stock and is perfect-bound. The catalogs were shot by photographers that included Versur Englehard, Robert Deutschman and Monica Stevenson.
“It’s just part of our repositioning Lord & Taylor,” said Olexa.