Penneys autumn/winter collection
In the past two years, Penneys has done a lot of restructuring, with its successful expansion into Europe.
Ann Marie Cregan, and Triona McGinley, who lead the fashion direction for Penneys — excluding the UK — are excited about the role of technology and enthused about their new design team, ensuring that Penneys’ fashion offer is stronger and more cohesive.
“We are thinking much more about our customer and how she’ll wear the looks, rather than just having a piece we think she’ll like. Now she’ll be able to find everything in the look she wants: coats, bags, hosiery,” Ann Marie said. “We get feedback from our Facebook site. It’s very interesting; we’re finding out more about what our customer feels and wants from us — be it that they love a garment, an issue about size, or something missing that we should have thought of.”
Ann Marie and I also discussed the fact that the BBC recently made an apology to Penneys when an investigation into their 2008 documentary Primark: On the Rack showed that “on the balance of probabilities”, footage claiming to show Primark using child labour in India “was not authentic”. It did a lot of damage to Penneys’ reputation.
“It is shocking to think a company like the BBC could make such a huge mistake,” Ann Marie said.
Shaking the bad memories off, we moved on to more cheerful stuff: the new looks. During the past two years, I have complained to the gals that I felt Penneys had gone too young in its styling. This season, it is not an issue; the balance is better. But then, fashion is sobering up, too.
“Our customer still wants her trendy looks, but she is thinking that bit more practically,” Triona said. “We are seeing a demand for work wear again, but it’s colourful.”
Triona held up what she calls a shell top, a three-quarter sleeved, tunic-type blouse. They have it in every colour and print imaginable.
“Our customer sees these types of pieces as being better buys. She can wear them with jeans and style it trendily, or, by adding a skirt and maybe a scarf, she has a more sophisticated look,” she explained.
As you can see, colour is exciting, and colour blocking is still a key look. Heritage is another: checks, tweeds and the trench. Then there’s the Sixties: shorts, minis, shift dresses, cropped jackets. And the Seventies: pussy-bow blouses, midi skirts and dresses, high-waisted trousers, culottes and knitwear. Phew!
“The polo-neck sweater is a key buy, the pleated skirt and either a cute, short jacket or a great hand knit,” advised Triona. “And, of course, a statement handbag.”