Lord & Taylor's current owner, Hudson's Bay Co., continues to work to modernize the 188-year-old chain, and its latest projects promise to bring new fashion excitement to the Fifth Avenue flagship while repurposing a once well-known store brand that has been lost to time. First up is a new shop for emerging contemporary designers called Brand Assembly that has the store joining forces with an L.A. based trade show of the same name. The year-old show not only presents young designers, four times a year to buyers and press, but also gives participants operational support to help them build solid independent businesses. Now their goods will be presented for sale in Lord & Taylor's in-store shop which is set to bow in September. While some of the designers will be making their department store debuts, the shop will also offer some slightly more established names like Sachin & Babi and Torn by Ronny Kobo. While prices are meant to average around $350, they will star at $60 and run to $3,000 for more luxurious pieces. Success in the department may mean a longer time on display, and possibly continuing orders from Lord & Taylor's regular contemporary department which is also located on the second floor. “We are looking to really inject newness and fashion relevance,” Liz Rodbell, president of Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay, tells WWD. If they are successful in New York, both concepts could be rolled out to other branch stores, and both will also get their own micro-sites.
Next up, in October is another curated department located nearby to be called Birdcage (rendering pictured above) which will feature more than 1,000 styles from over 30 different labels with a focus on accessories and jewelry but also including gift, tech and home items and even food products. “It will feel like a place to discover newness,” Rodbell tells WWD. “Not every single one of the brands are new to Lord & Taylor, but the way we are putting it together is new and unique. It’s fashion, food and art together.”
Each shop is an innovative way to continue sweeping away some of the persistent middle-of-the-road fashion image that Lord & Taylor cultivated under decades of management by May Co., but for those of us who are old enough to remember a more elegant chain, the name Birdcage is a clever call-out to the store's past. Years ago, The Bird Cage was actually the name of Lord & Taylor's signature restaurant and tea room (pictured at left) which opened in the late 1930s and was replicated in stores throughout the chain. In some locations, the classic decor featured a room festooned with antique, whitewashed birdcages holding flamboyant fantasy birds. Eventually, The Bird Cage gave way to newer restaurant concepts, and was eliminated entirely from most branches, but bringing back the name, even in a different format, sends a clear signal that the chain's current owner has a sense of the chain's more illustrious history and is working to restore some of that shine in a new way.