This week’s “Lunch” with O magazine creative director Adam Glassman and Talbots senior vice president of marketing Deborah Cavanagh could not have been more timely.
When they showed up at Michael’s today there was no shortage of things to talk about. I wanted to hear all about their latest collaboration–the second annual O, the Oprah Magazine Collection for Talbots, which debuted last month in stores and is featured in the magazine’s latest issue. But first, I had to get Adam’s take on The Fashion Olympics known as the Oscars.
Fresh off his trip to Los Angeles, where he covered the red carpet for Extra, Adam weighed in on the evening’s hits and misses, explaining what you see on television is not always what he gets. “People are amazed when they ask me, ‘Didn’t you love so-and-so’s dress?’, and I say, ‘Not really,'” he began. “Some dresses are really beautiful in person but don’t translate on television. Or, some are hideous in person but for some reason look a lot better on stage. I always look at the monitors.”
So who were his picks for this year’s red carpet winners and sinners? “I loved everything about Emma Stone’s look, head-to-toe,” raved Adam of the Best Actress winner’s prescient golden Givenchy gown. Other actresses who earned high marks: Best Supporting Actress winner Viola Davis in Armani Prive (“She never looked better”); Taraji P. Henson in Alberta Ferretti (“She looked so elegant. Everything including the hair and make-up was perfect”); and Nicole Kidman also in Armani Prive (“She can wear anything”).
We both agreed that last year’s Best Actress winner Brie Larson also looked divine in her flamenco-inspired Oscar de la Renta, but should have “pumped it up” with more glamorous hair and make-up. When I told Adam I loved everything about Janelle Monae’s Marie-Antoinette-inspired custom Elie Saab, he replied, “That was a lot of dress!”
Then there were the also-rans: Halle Berry (“I loved the hair and I loved the dress–but not together”); Leslie Mann (“The hair and make-up were beautiful and I even loved the color of the dress, but the combination of the two didn’t work”). When I said I thought Dakota Johnson looked dreadful in her Gucci granny dress and middle-school hair, Adam explained she likely chose the dress because “she was going against type.” Meaning she wanted to put some distance between herself and her sexed-up counterpart in Fifty Shades Darker.
And the worst dressed at this year’s Oscars? Scarlett Johansson. We all agreed her punk-rocker hair and unflattering Alaia dress did absolutely nothing for her. And beyond that, it was on balance a pretty “safe” year for fashion, with nothing too outrageous. “I miss those days,” said Adam. “Today everything is over-styled and homogenized. No one wears anything anymore unless they’re being paid for it.”
As someone who has always loved fashion but isn’t about to go bankrupt for it, I’ve always found Talbots to be a wonderful resource for great looking, stylish clothes and accessories. Because the company has been around for so long, some older women tend to think of the brand as more traditional and classic, while younger customers who are just discovering Talbots are snapping up the trendier pieces that work in perfectly with a millennial’s existing wardrobe. This baby boomer has a closet full of their clothes.
Three years ago, Deborah spearheaded a corporate philanthropic platform for Talbots and partnership with Dress for Success and invited customers to donate to the organization, raising $500,000 in monetary donations from customers and associates while collecting over 4,000 boxes of wear to working clothing and accessories for to help women in need get back to work.
“Over 20,000 were impacted by the program,” Deborah revealed. Then, she decided to “shoot for the stars” and approach O’s publisher Jayne Jamison and editor in chief Lucy Kaylin about collaborating on an exclusive capsule collection of pieces. With 30 percent of the net proceeds from sales benefiting Dress for Success. “It was Deb’s idea,” said Adam. “She deserves full credit.”
Just 24 hours after meeting about the idea, they were off and running. “O had never done anything like this before. We don’t put our name on products, that’s not our thing,” noted Adam. “Everything we do has to be authentic to Oprah and the O brand.”
The collaboration checked off all the boxes. Adam–and Oprah–had already been involved with the Dress for Success. “When I cleaned out Oprah’s closet with her at Harpo Studios, we donated a lot of the clothes [to the Chicago affiliate]. Talbots customers are O readers. The clincher was Dress for Success receiving 30 percent of the net proceeds. We don’t make a cent on it.”
Last year, the collection raised $1 million for the organization and collected another 4,200 boxes of donated clothing. Deborah reports that sales from this year’s capsule collection have resulted in an astonishing 73 percent increase in donations from Talbots customers versus this time last year. “And these women aren’t giving two or three dollars,” explained Adam. “They’re making real donations.”
The nine pieces that make up the new O, the Oprah Magazine Collection for Talbots are modeled by a group of “influencers” selected by O Magazine’s editors in the March issue, including Today show contributor Jill Martin, The View’s Sara Haines and wellness expert and author Hilaria Baldwin (yes, Alec Baldwin’s wife). There’s also a one-page advertorial promoting the partnership.
Adam is giving Oprah her own pieces this week. Editor at large Gayle King already has hers. She and Adam kicked off the program last Tuesday on Facebook Live. “Gayle likes things that are pretty. She’s never met a bracelet or necklace she doesn’t like,” he joked. “But she hates buttons. She has a thing about buttons.”
Oprah’s BFF wore the striped tank from the capsule collection, with a yellow jean jacket from Talbots on Harry Connick’s show last week. “The call center went crazy,” reported Deborah.
To get Talbots customers to support this initiative, the brand is “leveraging all our significant media platforms,” said Deborah, including the company’s own website and a “small army of influencers” on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. “Our customer considers herself a stakeholder in the company and our singular mission is to honor her.”