Talbots Is Celebrating the ‘Ladylike’ Badassery of Totally Normal Women

And we can still clean house

Have you ever walked into a Talbots?

My personal feeling has always been that it’s for some nondescript older woman, though who she is (a mom?) and what she does (work in an office…?) remains unclear. All we know is, she wears an awful lot of herringbone, usually in red.

Young women seeking their starter “brand” for grownup life pay attention to what retailers are trying to convey, which is why ads make such good shorthand. But we’ve rarely seen a Talbots ad, leaving us only with our impressions of its lackluster storefronts—which perhaps explains that one time, 20 years ago, when Arnold tried clarifying who the brand was.

Now, with help from MullenLowe, Talbots is finally speaking for itself.

Its new campaign, “Because I’m a Lady,” takes that first impression and clarifies it for a modern audience—by subverting everything we think about the Talbots woman, and along with it, women in general. Below is a one-minute spot that neatly explains the concept.

A few things we didn’t know about Talbots: It’s existed for 70 years. And the company is comprised of 92 percent women. A Talbots woman can be casual or formal; what stands out is that she isn’t model-skinny, or unrealistically young. The women here appear in a variety of youthful to middle ages and are compellingly diverse.

They look normal. They’re unapologetic. And perhaps because they’re all busy as hell, they’re taking old-school ideas like “moving with grace” and throwing them out the ladies’ prep school window. (On the driver’s side.)

That doesn’t mean we don’t know how to have a good time. For modern women, keeping fine company is critical.

The ad above will resonate for those who like to sneak off and have a quiet meal, something people might counter as “a bit sad”—I’ve heard it, and I don’t care. That Talbots recognizes this tiny insight says a lot about what it knows: However much we like to dance in cars (to the chagrin of our partners), the demands on us are many. Sometimes the best medicine is dinner alone with one’s thoughts.

Preferably with a single, ladylike glass of wine. Fans of Scandal’s bottle-swigging Olivia, rejoice! Talbots knows what your glass of wine looks like.

Which isn’t to say we can’t still enjoy a gentle laugh with friends. Don’t act like you don’t know about the giggle-snorts.

“We set out to bring light and dimension to the ongoing conversation of what it means to be a lady today,” says Talbots svp of marketing, Deborah Cavanagh. “As a brand, we are challenging perceptions and social conventions, and illuminating universal themes and truths that connect with all women. Like fashion, which evolves over time, so must definitions and beliefs.”

Four more ads in the campaign reprise takes from the one-minute film. In them, you’ll learn how to take a compliment—specifically that old back-hander, “I see a few people wrote that you’re bossy.” Own it, Bey-hivers.

Beauty sleep? We’re all about it, wherever it can be had.

And modern women still find time to clean house. Though that might mean something different from what it did in the 1950s.

Last but not least is a reflection on gigantic lady-handbags, packed with the essentials.

The ads will appear across Talbots’ social networks. They’ll also be shared by influencers, in selected editorial and on Talbots.com.

“At Talbots, we appreciate and celebrate women every day,” Cavanagh continues. “This campaign pays homage to all of those fun, confident, funny, smart, bad-ass modern women who proudly call themselves ladies. We want to prove to the world that women get better as they age, they are not a depreciating asset—a message very few brands celebrate.”

That idea of “depreciating assets” won’t come off as subtle to today’s ladies, because it’s something we think about a lot on our rabid, socially driven and miserable quests to have it all. What have we traded off today? When work beckoned for 10 hours, did the world notice we were sleepless, or that we failed to exercise and wax?

The work brings to mind a 2016 H&M ad, which cheerfully subverted the concept of “lady” to the tune of Tom Jones’ horrifically dated “She’s a Lady.” It spoke to younger millennials, but paved the way for Talbots to capture older millennials and Gen Xers—harnessing executive gigs, flicking pregnancy tests, or artfully just trying to dodge the question as we settle into life without progeny.

We’ve become less concerned with freewheeling sartorialism; now we’re just trying to save for mortgages without worrying about what the hell our partners are doing with their lives (assuming we have one), or grab a couple of days of vacation time without staring into the stirring abyss of our phones.

Given our first sense of Talbots, all those years ago, it’s refreshing to see the brand assert itself. What’s most surprising, however, is discovering that the person it’s always wanted to talk to is, well, us. Whether this will be sufficient to shake off a stodgy reputation remains to be seen, but hey, we’ll take another stroll through the store and see whether it says something different this time around.

For now, it’s enough to know Talbots sees us … and isn’t trying to reposition women as sexy, perfectly cinched or with tinkling, practiced lady-laughs. Because frankly, all that went out the window when the student loans came due.

CREDITS

Talbots Client Credits:
Chief Executive Officer: Lizanne Kindler
Senior Vice President, Marketing: Deborah Cavanagh
Senior Vice President, Design: Leon Green
Senior Vice President, Creative: Bill Miller
Senior Director, Retail Marketing: Doris Salukas
Senior Director, Marketing: Kristin Bennett
Marketing Manager: Jamie LaDuca

MullenLowe Credits
Product: Women’s Fashion
Agency: MullenLowe
Chief Creative Officer: Mark Wenneker
Executive Creative Directors: Tim Vaccarino, Dave Weist
Creative Directors: Myles Allpress, Andrea Mileskiewicz
Senior Art Director: Jessica Grantham
Writer: Macie Soler-Sala
Senior Copywriter: Sarah Crist
Junior Copywriter: Kristina Saliba
Executive Director of Integrated Production: Lisa Setten
Head of Integrated Production: Zeke Bowman
Senior Producer: Vera Everson
Assistant Producer: Sarah Brennan-Athas
Business Affairs: Maria Rougvie
Group Account Director: Rebekah Pagis
Account Director: Jessica Zdenek
Account Executive: Hannah Duhaime
Production Company: The Directors Bureau
Director: Melodie McDaniel
Executive Producer: Lisa Margulis
Line Producer: John Benet
DP: Sal Totino
Editorial: PS260 West
Editor: JJ Lask
Assistant Editor: Sara Sachs
Post Producer: Marlinda Walcott
Executive Producer: Carol Dunn
Executive Producer: Zarina Mak
Head of Production: Laura Patterson
Color Correct: MPC New York
Colorist: Adrian Seery
Executive Producer: Dani Zeitlin
Producer: Jenna Gabriel
VFX: PS260
Flame Artist: Margaret Yang
Creative Designer: Patrick Lavin
Graphic Designer: Michael Marciano
Music Company: Walker
Audio Post: Sound Lounge
Sound Design/Mixer: Tom Jucarone
Producer: Liana Rosenberg

Extended Credits:
Account Director, PR: Emily Mahlman
Account Supervisor, PR: Brittany Zahoruiko
Assistant Account Executive, PR: Alissa McGeehan
Senior Community and Content Manager: Lindsay Ostrander
Group Strategy Director: Ellie Gogan-Tilstone
Associate Media Director: Persephone Kazl
Assistant Digital Media Planner: Alexa Reisen
Project Manager: Sarah Libby
Senior Digital Producer: Louise Lloyd Owen