L.L. Bean Goes High Fashion?

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 23 2010 10:34 AM

L.L. Bean Goes High Fashion?

I was recently perusing the pre-sale items for L.L. Bean's new signature collection , when I was distracted by the blond model wearing the $79 textured pullover. Why did she look so familiar? This wasn't one of the blandly attractive, patently frumpy denizens of the mail-order catalog. It was none other than Maggie Rizer, the supermodel famous for her Nordic good looks and for losing her fortune to her father's gambling problem , who just a few years ago used to regularly grace the covers of Vogue and Elle. Poking around on the site further, I watched a promotional video for the new line, and caught a glimpse of could it really be? Missy Rayder , younger half of the famous Rayder sisters , and also a bona fide supermodel of the early aughts.

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Since when do high fashion and L.L. Bean, long-time purveyor of mom jeans and mock turtlenecks , even belong in the same sentence? Is this just another example of the sad fate of aging supermodels? (Rizer is 32 and Rayder 33, so, basically, ancient.) Or is the stodgy old Maine brand positioning itself to become the next big thing? The signature collection for which the company hired creative director Alex Carlton, founder of the nautically hip Rogues Gallery is an assortment of new designs and updated classics, cut trimmer than the standard, boxy Bean fare and marked up 20 to 25 percent. Not coincidentally, Rizer and Rayder are also both "American classics reinterpreted for today," according to a company spokesperson.

Someone at Bean clearly got the memo that in the age of Vampire Weekend , their preppy-meets-outdoorsy look is all of a sudden kind of trendy . Everywhere I look in New York this winter, people are wearing Bean boots again I resurrected my sister's old pair from college. The boot is one of the mainstays the new line revamps, introducing a Filson-esque waxed cotton version that has already sold out on pre-order. If L.L. Bean wants to de-frump their image and update their classics, I'm excited to see the results. But a word of caution to those who have loved their Bean boots and canvas totes forever: When a genuine old-school American outfitter starts pandering to a younger set , the results aren't always pretty.

Julia Felsenthal is an assistant at Slate.