"It's simple with an edge of glamour," an Ann Taylor clad Katrina Bowden told me at the brand's Spring 2011 collection preview party last Wednesday night, at the private rooftop of the Gramercy Park Hotel. A relatively new fan of Ann Taylor, Bowden especially likes how the collection can easily transition from day to night with the simple addition of something like a black feathery clutch, which Bowden was sporting that evening. Indeed, creative director Lisa Axelson's incredibly fresh take on American sportswear has attracted legions of new devotees, many of whom joined in the celebration that evening. Celebrities and fashion notables like Elizabeth Banks, Julie Henderson, Fernanda Motta, Olivia Palermo, Quiana Grant, Meredith Melling Burke, and Joanne Pailey gathered and sipped cocktails on the rooftop while Harley Viera-Newton and Cassie Coane (now so ubiquitous on the scene that they are simply known as "Harley + Cassie") spun throughout the evening and Indie pop darlings Au Revoir Simone performed.
The most wow-worthy part of the evening, however, was the collection itself, which was displayed throughout different parts of the venue. In Axelson's own words, "we're defining the new casual as a polished way of dressing down," and that mantra was evident in the elegant simplicity of the collection. The new line plays with palettes of neutrals, navy and white, and spring tweeds, and mixes them with pops of lavendar, citrine, or even leopard (don't forget "Ann" is part of "animal," the lookbook reminds us). And the accessories are particularly fashion forward, featuring everything from lemon-hued gladiator heels to canvas platform peeptoe booties. The jewelry, rather than take the route of the overplayed bib necklaces, offers something a little different and new as well. Some of the standouts: pave buckle wrap bracelets that can either be stacked or worn individually; tassel necklaces; and a burnished medallion necklace that lucky attendees got to take home as a gift. Next time I need to update one of my little, old black dresses, I know what I will don for that finishing touch.