, the nation's largest chain of clothing stores, chose the Palisades Center to introduce a new chain yesterday aimed at that unwieldy and indefinable category known as grown-ups. These are customers who are past any longing for shrunken polo shirts and low-slung denim styles ubiquitous at youth-oriented stores like Abercrombie & Fitch
, yet consider themselves too hip for conservative stores like Ann Taylor or Talbots
, and too frugal to pursue the elitist designs that make up that minuscule slice of apparel known as high fashion.
The new chain, Forth & Towne - poetically sandwiched at the mall between branches of Forever 21 and Justice: Just for Girls - is aimed at a market that might be called the new forgotten woman. Even though women of the baby boom, now age 41 to 59, accounted for 39 percent of women's apparel purchases last year, shoppers who are much younger, 11 to 30, enjoy nearly five times the retail options, according to industry figures.
...When research showed Gap executives that women over 35 cannot be easily categorized because of their eclectic tastes and lifestyles, the company came up with the idea of stocking its stores with four different brands, one in each corner, that address different customer profiles.
Career women who might shop at Ann Taylor or Banana Republic will find similar styles at the front of the 8,000-square-foot Forth & Towne, under the label Allegory, including $48 purple and pink merino wool sweaters and structured jackets, skirts and coats. A second label, Vocabulary, is more like Eileen Fisher and Chico's, with forgiving oversized knit sweaters and a chunky knit flecked oatmeal cardigan at $128.
More casual looks hang in the back of the store, under the name Gap Edition, based on the company's sportswear classics, including jeans and $98 cotton rain jackets in purple, pink and khaki. Prize, the trendiest label, includes a pleated black satin skirt with a grosgrain ribbon waistband, $78, several satin flounce skirts, an $88 plum velvet blazer and a range of lace-trimmed transparent tops.
...indication of the degree of skepticism that some members of its target audience hold for the company's approach to mature consumers, a blogger in Chicago noted on April 21, the day Gap disclosed the name of its new chain, that Forth & Towne could be called F.A.T. for short.