Saturday, May 21, 2011

An Anthro Primer (OOTD)

While contemplating what to title this post, I decided to look up the word "Tombolo," as, well...that's what the fine folks at Anthro named the dress I'm wearing in this outfit (the one way way way down at the bottom of this very wordy post). Turns out, it's an island or islands that are tied together with (a) narrow bar(s) of land.

Well, okay then. I guess that makes more sense than last year's "Insouciant Tank" (to which we're to infer an indifference to what exactly? Yeah, iono either...)

This led me to further consider Anthro's love of giving their products obscure and somewhat (to me) cryptic names, which on the most part, I just ignore. But having started thinking about it, I looked up a few more names of current items (which I've listed below, for your edification and entertainment). And this led me to wonder, "Who's naming this stuff? And why?" Which then, of course, led me to remember that as an Anthropologie customer, I'm supposed to be either flattered and/or amused by the obscure references to geography, geology, botany, and so forth. I'm sure some, if not many of you, have come across this Fast Company article about Anthropologie's business strategies, that describes with uncanny precision, who exactly the Anthropologie customer is:

Ask anyone at Anthropologie who that customer is, and they can rattle off a demographic profile: 30 to 45 years old, college or post-graduate education, married with kids or in a committed relationship, professional or ex-professional, annual household income of $150,000 to $200,000. But those dry matters of fact don't suffice to flesh out the living, breathing woman most Anthropologists call "our friend." Senk, 46, says, "I like to describe her in psychographic terms. She's well-read and well-traveled. She is very aware -- she gets our references, whether it's to a town in Europe or to a book or a movie. She's urban minded. She's into cooking, gardening, and wine. She has a natural curiosity about the world. She's relatively fit."
The Anthropologie customer is affluent but not materialistic. She's focused on building a nest but hankers for exotic travel. (She can picture herself roughing it with a backpack and Eurail pass -- as long as there is a massage and room service at end of the trek.) She'd like to be a domestic goddess but has no problem cutting corners (she prefers the luscious excess of British cooking sensation Nigella Lawson to the measured perfection of Martha Stewart). She's in tune with trends, but she's a confident individualist when it comes to style. She lives in the suburbs but would never consider herself a suburbanite.
The Anthropologie woman is not so much conflicted as she is resistant to categorization. Her identity is a tangle of connections to activities, places, interests, values, and aspirations. She's not married with two kids: She's a yoga-practicing filmmaker with an organic garden, a collection of antique musical instruments, and an abiding interest in Chinese culture (plus a husband and two kids). 

Mmhm. Anyone else find that a little...creepy? I don't know about you, but I sorta hate that they're trying to (and half-succeeding at) pigeon-holing me like this.

Which, uh, would also fit the profile, because there's that line there, that says I'm "not so much conflicted as resistant to categorization." 

*roll of the eyes* 

By the way, I don't practice yoga, make films, garden (Have you seen my backyard? No? Phew!), have a collection of antique musical instruments (unless you're counting a few from my husband's childhood: a violin, his trumpet from his high school band days, an old electric keyboard, which the kids enjoy banging on, and a couple of harmonicas and a tambourine. Hm, and in that case, they'd be more his collection of antique instruments, not mine), or an abiding interest in Chinese culture (notwithstanding the fact that I married into a Chinese-American family, and have half-Chinese offspring as a result). 

Oh, and I like the idea of wine, more than the reality of wine.Which is a little embarrassing to admit, but it is what it is.

And, while I sometimes catch some of Anthro's references in the names of their products (I do listen to NPR, after all), I don't recognize all of them. Therefore, I've taken the opportunity to exercise my "natural curiosity about the world," and look up some of these *slightly obnoxious* *cough-cough* *pretentious* *clears throat*  references that I'm supposed to be keyed into.

And since I'm the sort who likes to share (What? That's not in their profile? Well, geez, what's that about?) here are some of the terms/references I looked up (thank you, Wikipedia) on some of the dresses currently found in their catalog:

Vela Luka Dress: Vela Luka is a small town in southern Dalmatia, Croatia. It's located on the western side of the island of Korcula, and the locals often refer to it simply as "Luka." It's home to Vela Spila, possibly one of the most important prehistoric cave dwellings in Europe, with carbon dated signs of human activity going back nearly 20,000 years.

Vokko Dress: Vokko (also spelled Voko) is a "populated place"/town in upper east Ghana. I could tell you the longitude and latitude coordinates for it, but that's really about it. Not much going on there, apparently. Or, maybe Anthro was referring to the Vokko that's a type of vocoder (short for voice encoder; an analysis/synthesis system mostly used for speech) capable of processing stereo signals. Hmm...I don't know about you, but my bet's on Ghana.

Muhabura Tank Dress: Muhabura - or Mount Muhabura -  is the name of an extinct volcano that's part of the Virunga Mountain Range that lies between Uganda and Rwanda. If you approach it from the Ugandan side (and are "relatively fit," as the Anthro customer profile suggests), it should only take you about a day to climb.

Quechua Dress: Quechua is the name of an Andean people of South America and their languages. It also refers to a region of Peru.

Ikinimba Dress: Ikinimba is a musical tradition of Rwanda, which tells the stories of its Rwandan heroes and kings.

Mompos Dress: Mompos, or officially, "Santa Cruz de Mompox," is a town in northern Colombia. It's known for its preservation of colonial architectural features, many of the which buildings are still being used for their original purposes. Provides an excellent example of a Spanish Colonial city. 

Sangatte Slip Dress: Sangatte is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department on the northern coast of France, fronting the British Channel. The French cooling station for the Channel Tunnel is located there. It's also the former location of a now defunct (and somewhat controversial) refugee camp, which was closed down by Nicolas Sarcozy in 2002, after rioting in 2001. And for you (British, original, and vastly superior version) Top Gear fans, this is where Jeremy, Richard, and James ended up, when they attempted to cross the Channel in an amphibious Nissan Hardbody (they missed their intended Calais landing - I remember that episode, though I didn't remember the name "Sangatte.")

Cuernavaca Maxi: Cuernavaca is the capitol city of the state of Morelos in Mexico. A favorite vacationing spot of residents of Mexico City and foreign visitors due to its warm, stable climate and abundant vegetation. Once upon a time, Aztec emperors liked to maintain summer residences there. 

Sweater: Gifted by my mom, from a trip to South Korea (similar here and here)
Dress: Tombolo Dress (see start of post for meaning of Tombolo)
Necklace: Idesia (a medium-sized, deciduous flowering tree, native to eastern Asia) Necklace, Anthropologie (similar here and here and here)
Belt: Snakebite Belt, Anthropologie (similar here and here)
Shoes: Givenchy Platform Clog Sandals (hidden by the long skirt)

There. Now we can all smile smugly together, and nod when we're admiring the Muhabura Tank Dress in store. Because I like it a whole lot more now that I know it's named after an extinct volcano. ^_-


  1.  Awesome post!  The names really are stupid, and just pretentious.

    I do however, love the tombolo dress on you!  Did you get a 0 or a 2? :)

  2. As an aspiring linguist, I picked up the Quechua reference immediately and felt rather smug about it, although I'm not as much a fan of the dress itself. Quechua is kind of a standard touchstone in terms of being a major Amerindian language, difficult to learn but/thus rewarding to study.

  3. Very interesting.  Thanks for sharing you research with us:)  I love your OOTD!

  4. Interesting post, Carol. I seem to be their anti-demographic.

    I'm 28
    I make less than $50k
    I'm not well-traveled (I've been off the East Coast exactly twice, both times to the same Mexican resort)
    I didn't attend college (I didn't even finish HS, in fact)
    I do not live in the suburbs (I live in NYC)
    I don't garden, I don't collect musical instruments, I don't have a particular interest in Chinese culture

    I fit three "criteria": I am married, I practice yoga, and I am well-read. I'm quite fit, not just "relatively", so I didn't include that.

    I also receive all of their event invitations to the NYC stores and have a closet that is more Anthro than not. I wonder what they make of me?

    On a more personal note, I love your OOTD!

  5. Like Sara I don't seem to fit their demographic either.  I just turned 25 and make less than $50K as well, don't consider myself a traveler and am just a school teacher not really into yoga.  I guess I'd be at one of the ends of an Anthro-Bell Curve, with 30-45 year olds who make three times as much as me as the mean.  But who cares!  Their stuff is amazing. 

    As a side note, I'm loving the maxi on a shortie.  It' gives me hope that one day I too can pull off such a look. 

  6. I found the research behind the names very interesting.  I never even thought about looking up the meanings! I don't fit the demographic.  32 years old, homemaker of 4 children, live in a small town, don't travel but did when I was little, just finishing up my B.S. degree, 80k/yr income, I am quite fit, absolutely don't garden and rarely do yoga.  I don't collect rare instruments but I do play a few.  I love it that the anthropologie shopper is diverse and I think that should be celebrated.  Anthropologie can reach across boundaries and appeal to so many!

  7. I'm horrible at geography.  The only dress names I figure out are movie star related-Reed Shirtdress ala Donna Reed.  Tippi Dress ala Tippi Hedrin in the Birds.  Obviously, I don't fit the target consumer either ;-)
    Ha ha ha.

    Love the maxi on you.  And that darn necklace.  I need to locate it! 

  8.  Thanks for the research on the names. I must say after spending my paycheck at Anthro, i don't have much money left to travel. I think i would have more money to travel if i didn't like anthro dresses so much.

  9. This is really fascinating, Carol.  Thanks so much for posting the information on Anthro's  perceived demographic, and for taking the time to look up the origins behind the names.  I find that I fit into several of Anthro's demographic criteria, but certainly not all of them.  I wonder if part of the "glue" that binds the Anthro blogging community together is that we all do fit into some of these demogrpahics, and therefore are likely to have similar interest beyond our love for Anthro fashion. 

    And maybe I'd best find myself a Muhabura Tank dress before it makes like its namesake and becoms extinct!

  10. Wow, that Anthro mass-customer profile is creepily accurate for me! Although I don't collect antique musical instruments either, there are many on-the-mark tangents...
    And yes: I ordered the Vela Luka dress online last month because it looked like a divine turquoise dress AND I was pinning for a vacay on the Adriatic.  We went there two years ago, and it was stunning. The dress, on the other hand, got returned quickly. It didn't live up to its namesake.

  11. This maxi dress is CRAZY GORGEOUS on you Carol! I am dying over how TALL you look - you are definitely pulling off this trend - love it! 

  12. Gorgeous! You've just given me another color combination to try. The purple combined with blue is stunning.

  13. That's gotta be the ideal core customer they're aiming for. I think it's clear that there's a spectrum in the Anthro community. Regardless of income bracket or education background, all of the women seem educated, thoughtful, well read & interesting to me.

    You look be-autiful in that maxi!!!

  14. Great post- it's fascinating to think how deeply they've delved into the profile-building (like serial killers on TV) (I guess we're serial consumers so the analogy isn't too far off!).  Obviously we don't all fit into all of these boxes, but enough to have some shared perspectives!

    I love the naming, and think it goes a long way towards remembering all your current obsessions and those missed pieces that become ever more lost....

    Love this- the soft colour of the print just makes it that much more desirable since so many of the maxis right now are just a wee bit too intense!

  15.  Very funny!  I've actually kind of hated their names for items for a while - not only for the pretentiousness but also because I've often thought "Could a person living in X actually AFFORD this item?!".  
    As for Cuernavaca these days - it's fairly dangerous, like much of Mexico.  I wonder if drug runners are sporting their favorite Anthro pieces.

  16. I would love to be some of those things (well-traveled, a good cook), but I just don't fit into their demographic.  Relatively fit?  HA!  In any case, I love their offerings (most of the time)!

    That dress is fantastic on you!  Makes you look super tall.  I'm falling for the maxi dress trend more and more each day.