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What I Learned Behind the Red Door

I spent a season at Talbots. And I was surprised.

As a creative consultant, I get a chance to walk into many more companies than I’d ever experience as a full-timer. And I have to say, this one may have surprised me the most. In a good way. Here are 10 things I learned in my three-month stint at Talbots:

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  1. It is possible to walk through the pages of a magazine. The catalog is a BIG DEAL at Talbots. So they lay the entire catalog out on the floor of a huge room, with each two-page spread represented by a foam core with actual clothes laid on top of it. You walk from “page” to “page.” I’ve dreamed of this. It’s not Vogue, but it’s pretty damn fun.
  2. Talbots makes some cute stuff. As a fashion-loving (okay, obsessed) person, when I took this gig, one of my BFs said “Don’t come back wearing gabardine suit pants.” But I was amazed at how often I was supposed to be doing a “walk though” and found myself mentally shopping. Like I might buy a tuxedo… Or a velvet smoking jacket. Want to know what the most stylish women who work at Talbots bought? It’s this + it’s pretty damn great with ripped jeans and a kitten heel.
  3. There are moments inside Talbots HQ that feel like a fashion museum. Find vintage catalog covers (outside of HR) and a look at history through the lens of Talbots’ (just-celebrated) 7 decades in business outside the cafe. At one point, a museum-quality vintage archival Talbots fashion exhibit even made an appearance on mannequins in a hallway.
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4. Talbots is an extremely empowering workplace for women. And those who believe in the empowerment of women. I always figured there’d be lots of women at Talbots. In fact, the number is at over 90%. Including the most senior leadership. And the men here are the kind of men who are comfortable working with powerful women (i.e., enlightened). I was at Talbots when the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, and I thought about what a safe and encouraging space this is to be a female who wants to get things done.

5. Talbots has heart. There are two flags outside HQ, the American flag and a Talbots flag.

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I noticed they were at half mast after the Texas shooting. That’s not an external PR move. It’s just quietly doing the right thing. It affected me.

6. Weirdly, Talbots is like a wildlife preserve. The cafe has a massive window wall that looks out on water and trees. I saw ducks, geese, what looked like a heron and a hawk. Others have spotted deer. And a fox.

7. Talbots refers to models by name. Why do I mention this seemingly basic fact? Because so few businesses do it. I’ve heard models called … the girls, the talent, “she” (as in “where is she?”). So it was nice to hear everyone refer to models as “Uba” and “Nikki.”

(Oh, BTW, Talbots shoots with Nikki Taylor. Yes, that Nikki Taylor. NBD.)

8. A good podcast can get you through anything. This isn’t exactly Talbots-specific, but the commute from Brookline to Hingham took me about an hour. It’s what forced me to download Serial like the rest of the universe. Hurrah!

9. Yes, there is good coffee near Talbots. It’s called Red Eye Roasters, and the owner used to be a Talbots graphic designer.

10. Oh, and Talbots shoots in exotic places. Who knew? Paris, anyone? (If you’re reading this, Talbots, LMK if you need a French pastry-tester. I’ll lower my consulting rate for it.)

Rachel Solomon is the Founder of Honor Code Creative (honorcodecreative.com). Clap if you learned something new. Or just to be supportive. Or to see if your nail polish is dry.

Rachel Solomon