Saturday, September 02, 2006

Signs of the Apocalypse (or Just a Really Great Bargain?)

I nearly bought my first outfit at Wal-Mart last Saturday. (Jessica - take a moment to breathe love). I didn't go into the local Wal-Mart with the intention of buying a suit. I went with the intention of buying a cheapie belt to wear with my totally expensive and completely gorgeous Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent bat-sleeved, aubergine colored, needs to be belted at the waist 80's style sweater that I picked up in Chapel Hill the other weekend (so NOT country girl).

Why Wal-Mart? well, my stylist at Uniquities (one Dr. Diva) had told me I did not need to spend hundreds of dollars on these here today, gone in 3 months large belts reminiscent of Working Girl and Wall Street. Affordable and passable styles could be found at Target. Well - we don't have a Target. So, I figured I'd give Wal-Mart a try.

The belt selection turned out to be pitiful, but I did spot an adorable dark lavender and white tweed suit with a fitted jacket and a-line skirt.





As it turned out, I had seen the jacket in a recent advertisement (Lucky? In Style?) for the new George ME line at Wal-Mart.

According to the press release from Wal-Mart:

"Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) announced today that award-winning sportswear designer Mark Eisen will design an encapsulated sportswear collection to complement the highly successful GEORGE(TM) ladies assortment. Named GEORGE ME (em-ee) by Mark Eisen, the collection will feature tops, bottoms, jackets, and knits, available in misses and plus sizes. The collection will make its debut at Wal-Mart stores nationally and online at Walmart.com (http://www.walmart.com/ ) in mid August for Fall 2006.

Launched 16 years ago in the United Kingdom, GEORGE brand apparel offers quality, style and value for the whole family and has enjoyed strong growth in the UK at Wal-Mart's ASDA subsidiary. The brand's growth has been fueled by design credibility at amazing prices, understanding the customer, and regular infusions of fresh and interesting new looks. With this exciting new collection in the U.S. market, Wal-Mart now aims to enhance the brand's appeal to U.S. customers with pieces featuring Eisen's all-American design aesthetic.

"The GEORGE line represents fashion for value around the world," said Claire Watts, executive vice president of product development, apparel and home merchandising for the Wal-Mart Stores Division. "GEORGE ME will be especially appealing to the value-driven shopper who wants versatile pieces that stand the test of time.""

As for Mark Eisen, I remember him. Really I do. He was like a Michael Kors - sort of - except Michael Kors now has a cult following of Park Avenue and Palm Beach socialites while Mark Eisen...is designing for Wal-Mart. Of course, prior to Wal-Mart, he had his eponymlus line in the 1980s and 1990s, Urchin (do you all remember those darling sweaters?), a stint overseeing design at Ann Taylor and now has a luxe line of cashmere, Karoo, available at such luxury outlets as Bergdorf's and Saks Fifth Avenue.

But back to the suit. I tried the blazer on over my t-shirt. I fingered the skirt. I tried to envision myself actually wearing the whole ensemble to lunch at Nobu 57 next week with the Bank of America Cap intro team. Would they compliment me on an adorable fall suit selection? Would they snicker behind my back at the hick from North Carolina in the ill-fitting suit? If they did compliment me - go so far as to say "Where'd you get that?" could I answer honestly? Could I say "Oh - it's Mark Eisen for Wal-Mart" the same way I say "Oh - it's Isaac Mizrahi for Target" when people ask me about the adorable array of summer dresses I have by him.

Mark Eisen simply does not have the cachet that Isaac does (perhaps you need cachet to design for Tar-jet).

Would I be getting in on an early trend? Could I expect Wal-Mart to annnounce a roster of famed (and occasionally failed) designers contributing to everything from apparel to mops - similar to Target? Would there be the Michael Graves of Wal-Mart? The Swell of Wal-Mart? The Shabby-Chic of Wal-Mart? Is Mark Eisen Wal-Mart's answer to Isaac?

But more importantly - does any of this really matter?

Would I buy the suit if it didn't have the Mark Eisen label on it? Probably not. But I am still considering it. And seeing as this is our local Wal-Mart, I don't think they'll run out of a size 6 any time soon.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

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