Dress Barn Re-positions itself with DRESSBAR – Designer Collaborations Bring Sophistication to the Brand

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Images and text by Vicky Bateman

Designer collaborations are a fashion mainstay, although Dress Barn is unlikely the first that comes to mind when you think of one. The DRESSBAR at Dress Barn, a bold repositioning initiative of the 50-plus year-old brand known for dresses, celebrated their collaboration with fashion designer Heidi Weisel this past Thursday at their Fifth Avenue pop-up store. There were appearances by Weisel and Amber Fillerup Clark of the blog Barefoot Blonde, while DreamDry hair salon gave hair braid tutorials—a signature look of the Barefoot Blonde—to partygoers.

The DRESSBAR at Dress Barn is the company’s big push to update their image and offerings. “We always wanted to give the customer a value price point but we also wanted to give the brand fashion credibility,” explains Stephanie Garbarini, Dress Barn’s Vice President of Brand Marketing. “When you have 840 stores to create that feeling, it takes a long time.”

It’s even more interesting to watch this main-street retailer (whose target consumer is in her mid-forties), employ such a strong social media campaign for the DRESSBAR launch. “Social media marketing is playing the biggest role when you think about the other mediums. Compared to television, print, digital media, the social space is just erupting,” continues Garbarini, saying the brand has partnered with roughly 50 bloggers and influencers for the launch.

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Weisel is one of three designer collaborators, which also include Carmen Marc Valvo and Michael Smaldone from Adrianna Papell. Each collaboration was celebrated with a special event that reflected part of the designer’s personality and aesthetic. “Carmen is all about red carpet glamour so it made sense that we did Benefit [Cosmetics], makeovers and made women feel beautiful,” says Garbarini. “Smaldone from Adriena Papell is a health nut and his dresses are a little bit sexier and we did a whole thing with Liquiteria—it was healthy, it was organic. Heidi is blonde, she’s beautiful, she’s a woman, she likes to do her hair so we thought Amber was perfect.”

Tiffany, a 36-year old New Jersey resident at the event, seemed persuaded by the repositioning. “I never really thought of Dress Barn as a fashionable place to shop—my grandmother shops there—but the DRESSBAR dresses are making me change my mind. ” Even the Huffington Post is on board: “Dress Barn may become your new favorite store (Yes, really),” was the title of one of their DRESSBAR related articles.

The price point falls between (a very affordable) $50-$70. Although known for plus size fashions which go to size 24, most of the DRESSBAR dresses only go up to size 16, with only about one or two of each collection available in a larger size range—presenting a possible issue with their consumer. Target, known for their designer collaborations, has experienced this sort of backlash, receiving flak in the past from plus-size bloggers and customers for not having its famous collaborations in plus sizes.

Dress Barn will have one more popup shop event celebrating the DRESSBAR collaboration with Etta Grenata, the company’s Design Director. “Next week we have our own designer and we’re doing something with Marie Claire, it’s called MC Loves Dresses,” Garabani beams. “It’s all about loving the dress.”

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About the author

Vicky BatemanVicky is a current Fashion Marketing student from Illinois. She holds a previous Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. She dreams of having a job she loves that combines business, travel, and fashion and utilizes all the unique skills she’s acquired over the years.