Hobart sophomore Charlie Hale and his friend Charlie Carey of Bates College are among the first people to see L.L. Bean’s new Signature collection of clothes. In fact, the two were even partly responsible for what photos appear on the line’s Web site. The two friends have become brand ambassadors for the company after e-mailing a friend’s father who worked there.
According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, they received a tour of the design room and clothing used to inspire the line and “L.L. Bean’s marketing team furiously scribbled notes as they [the students] previewed the new Web site and models and suggested changes for photos to be used. Soon enough, L.L. Bean decided to tap the friends as brand ambassadors, offering them free clothing in exchange for spreading the word.”
So far, the two have organized an event at Bates and recruited 10 friends. The article notes the team hales from “colleges across the Northeast, including Harvard University, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Vermont.”
“We’re creating a network of socially influential people on campus and putting the right clothes on the backs of the right people,” Hale is quoted.
The full article, with a link to a video taken during the Bates event, follows.
The Boston Globe
With student help, L.L. Bean tries younger look
Jenn Abelson • March 15, 2010
LEWISTON, Maine – Bates College students swarmed Willy Beans coffee shop last week as 19-year-old freshman Charlie Carey, clad in a slim Hunter’s bright navy plaid shirt and brown moc hand-sewn shoes, preached the preppy gospel of the new Signature collection L.L. Bean is launching today.
The campus sneak preview was no marketing coup covertly engineered by a clever merchant. Carey, of Lincoln, had organized Wednesday’s event after approaching the outdoorsy Maine merchant and asking to promote the new modern collection among the campus crowd. Teenagers soliciting retailers to hawk their goods, particularly for brands that normally have little appeal among their peers, is a rare event, to say the least. It was an offer L.L. Bean – whose boxy, loose-fitting offerings sometimes turned off even the preppiest of teens – knew it couldn’t refuse
Over the past few months, Carey and his friend Charlie Hale have recruited 10 other friends at colleges across the Northeast, including Harvard University, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Vermont, to join the impromptu movement.
They are handing out catalogs, hosting trunk shows, wearing the company’s clothes, and talking them up in a grass-roots effort to market the collection to the campus crowd (even though it was styled for 20- and 30-somethings).
THE NEW LINE Watch video of Bates College students getting a sneak preview of L.L. Bean’s new Signature line at www.boston.com/business.
“It seems like every time retailers stray from who they are – getting younger or getting more fashionable – it’s failed,” said Mike Tesler, president of Retail Concepts, a consultancy in Norwell. “The opportunity for L.L. Bean lies in being authentic. If they’re going at this from the ground up, instead of thinking that they know everything, that’s a good approach.” L.L. Bean invited Carey and Hale to the Freeport headquarters after they e-mailed a friend’s father who worked at the company (and then forwarded it to marketing colleagues). There, the teens received a tour of the design room and archived clothing that was used to inspire the Signature line. L.L. Bean’s marketing team furiously scribbled notes as they previewed the new website and models and suggested changes for photos to be used. Soon enough, L.L. Bean decided to tap the friends as brand ambassadors, offering them free clothing in exchange for spreading the word. They don’t receive a paycheck, but they do get several outfits (about $200 each) per season
“It’s really exciting to have college kids reaching out to us wanting to help,” said Chris Vickers, vice president of L.L. Bean Signature, which is expected to get its own shops, including one in Greater Boston. “We think it says a lot about L.L. Bean as a company.” The students created a code name for their preppy endeavor – “Bean in the wiL.L.d” – and developed a private online forum where they plan to write updates for L.L. Bean on how the clothes are fitting, what styles are working, and post photos of the outfits they put together. L.L. Bean will use this feedback, along with other customer input, to drive style, marketing, and price updates for the collection
“We’re creating a network of socially influential people on campus and putting the right clothes on the backs of the right people,” said Hale, of Winchester, a 20-year-old sophomore at Hobart and William Smith Colleges
On the Bates campus, Carey lured Nicolette Whitney, the 19-year-old fashion columnist for the student newspaper, to serve as his fellow Bean ambassador and wear the Signature clothes around campus. Whitney, who was not a fan of the traditional baggy Bean fit, pored over the racks at the coffee shop preview Wednesday. Her opinion: “It’s a breakthrough for L.L. Bean. It’s a tribute to what they’ve always been but also to what they’re becoming.”
Perhaps the biggest breakthrough was getting more than 20 students to show up before the event started, each waiting eagerly to catch a peek at the new line. The college crew, who heard about the sneak preview through Facebook and friends of friends, crowded around the clothes and Signature designer Alex Carleton. L.L. Bean’s marketing team handed out $20 gift cards to more than 50 students as they combed through racks of piped wrap dresses, fitted polo shirts, and other tailored wear. A few students complained the prices were steep – a $185 trench coat, for example, and said they would wait for a sale to buy the clothes
A few lucky people didn’t need to wait long. Carey and Whitney ended the night raffling off merchandise
Julia Winder, a 20-year-old sophomore from Princeton, N.J., gave the ultimate
seal of approval, immediately replacing the J.Crew v-neck sweater she was wearing with her raffle prize – a $79 navy, fitted cotton pullover with wooden buttons on the shoulder and a kangaroo front pocket
“It’s really cool they’re aiming at a younger generation. This is more of a preppy East Coast style rather than just an outdoorsy Maine look,” Winder said. “It’s perfect for summers on Nantucket.”
Jenn Abelson can be reached at email@example.com.