Make way for the new Ann Taylor. The New York-based fashion label known for it’s classic, office-appropriate designs has a new creative director at the helm and let’s just say her first collection for SS16 has us counting the days ‘till spring. We sat down with Austyn Zung—who also heads up the brand’s younger, hipper sister labels Loft and Lou & Grey—to get the scoop on her new direction, style muses and the must-have pieces she can’t wait to wear come spring.
Ann Taylor has been around since 1954. What, for you, is the heart of the brand and how do you want to move it forward?
For me. Ann Taylor is all about chic sportswear. When you look back at the archives you can see that it’s always been about these really great separates that women can put together and wear no matter what’s going on in their lives. My job is just to do that for today. I think women want to look put together, but they want to do it with a sense of ease—they don’t want to be too tucked in, or too cinched in—there has to be a relaxed sensibility for it to feel modern. Even if it’s refined and elegant, it has to feel easy.
How have you brought that modern sensibility to the new collection?
Fabrics are the starting point. I felt like there was a great opportunity to elevate the fabrics and that doesn’t mean necessarily elevating the prices—just making better choices. Most people, when they shop, can’t really put their finger on why they like something or not, but so much of that has to do with fabric. What’s the first thing you do when something catches your eye in a store? You touch it. And then proportion, too. Just updating proportions into a more modern feel of how women want to dress today was a big part of it.
What was the inspiration for spring/summer ’16?
We were very inspired by Hemingway’s time in Havana. I love Hemingway because he’s a very glamorous, alluring figure but he lived this rugged, kind of rough life. He loved adventure and he loved to surround himself with interesting curious people, but he still lived life on the edge. I love that juxtaposition. We were looking at his years spent in Havana, which was such a great source of inspiration. The colours, textures, and the way the architecture works with the vegetation. A lot of the colours, prints and patterns were derived from that setting, but always with this very elegant figure in mind at the same time.
Did you have any specific muses for the collection?
Well, when you think about the people he was surrounding himself with at the time, there’s of course Slim Keith who is one of the most stylish women ever. I always reach to the past when it comes to muses because those are women who really had their own sense of style. They didn’t have a stylist putting together outfits for them so it was never cookie cutter.
What piece are you most excited for from the collection?
We spent a lot of time really figuring out the fit of the pants. The high-waisted wide leg pant was very important to us this season and we did it in different lengths—so you have the full length, the cropped version, and the culotte. This whole idea of different fits and silhouettes of pants, that will be something we continue to push. Women wear pants a lot today, and i think if the pants fit really well, you’ll go back.