Bellevue Square has a new resident. Sort of. The Ann Taylor store got a facelift. It’s now stocked with chunky sweaters and feathered handbags and there are Chanel and Richard Avedon coffee table books laying around. Accessories have been cheekily renamed ‘covetables,’ there are chandeliers, and vases of monochromatic flowers. There are a few private dressings rooms, but there’s also a communal area with a three-way mirror and couches. It’s not your mother’s Ann Taylor; the new store is girlfriend-y.

Situated on the second floor, directly across from J Crew (more on that in a minute), the gleaming white storefront all but cries out, “Hey, girl!,” to twenty-something shoppers.

We attended the store’s grand opening last week, where director of public relations, Andrew Taylor, (no relation) told us the new vibe isn’t necessarily about a younger client, but ‘being inviting to all ages.’ So is the concept behind the new ‘concept store’ (their words; the Bellevue shop is only the second such environment for the brand) based being fresher and cooler? Taylor allowed for that, and added, ‘And intimate and chic.’

Fair enough. But if you get a whiff of Juicy Couture-meets-Express-times-that aforementioned neighbor, we’re right there with you.

After the AT’s fall 2010 New York Fashion Week shows last winter, national fashion media like the online fav Refinery29 were all abuzz with praise with the line. Prior to that, even style.com and the New York Times were friendly to the recession-friendly brand, especially when it came affixed to leopard print dresses. (Paging Michelle Obama…) And did you hear about the little sheath dress that sold out in two days and started fetching tidy prices on eBay this past spring?

Alright. So how did Ann Taylor get cool? Well, for one, it turns out the brand got a new senior vice president of design: Lisa Axelson. Fresh outta Club Monaco (whose papa is Ralph Lauren), she brings a knack for stylish classics trend-referencing twists. And it may not just be the ‘concept’ stores that are ‘cool.’ The whole Naomi Watts thing doesn’t hurt (she’s cooler than your mom, right?) And, A-list editorial stylists like Kate Young have been tapped for in-store promotions and parties at the brand’s Loft locations. Kristin Rawson, AT’s style director says the tweaks and style turns are all about how they’ve, ‘continued with the classics of Ann Taylor, but updated [the line] to make it more modern and elegant.’

And, you might find, covetable.

Check the slideshow here for more, and watch this video from the recent Fashion’s Night Out.

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