Ann Taylor finds U of C’s model students

The clothing brand conducts a nationwide search for a younger look.

By Hallie Grumer

It’s not every day that you hear of a casting call for fashion modeling that also teaches you about business. But on February 10, business casual giant Ann Taylor sponsored a special “Casting Call” to find young models to fit their more youthful rebranding. This on-campus event provided an opportunity for the women of the University to learn the ins and outs of the interview process and presented them with the chance to appear in the online lookbook for Ann Taylor.

“There were two goals in mind,” explains fourth-year Grace Lewin, one of the two Ann Taylor Campus Ambassadors. “The first goal was to educate girls about behavior during the interview process as well as behavior in the workplace, and since it’s Ann Taylor, specifically relating to business attire. The second goal was to select five models who would then take part in an online virtual lookbook, having only college students wearing business attire.”

Lewin, along with third-year Lizmarie Oliveras, were chosen by Ann Taylor over winter break to participate in their Ambassador program, comprised of 10 schools from all over the country, like the peer institution Columbia University. Each group is responsible for hosting a series of events at its institution. The first event was the Campus Casting Call. Since the schools have to complete similar tasks or events, there are different incentives given for points such as the overall best event for the casting call, as well as the overall attendance.

Although the University of Chicago is one of the smaller schools to participate in the event, it had one of the best turnouts, with over 100 girls attending the event and more than 70 completing the casting call application and video speech.

The event itself addressed the various aspects of the interview and job world. Joni Krep, from CAPS, spoke with the girls, sharing funny anecdotes of interviews she had held, covering the dos and don’ts of the work environment. But it wasn’t all work and no play—the participants were able to enjoy the catered desserts provided, including Sugar Bliss cupcakes, and could enter into a raffle for a $100 gift card. There was also an Ann Taylor team present, that brought a rack of clothes with them and offered useful tips when choosing interview attire. In addition, there was a résumé critique station in which the girls could have their résumés reviewed from either the pre-law, pre-medicine, or pre-business categories.

“Overall, I think this was a really good event, specifically for the University of Chicago campus, because sometimes we get a little bit carried away preparing academically and forget that there are some simple things to remember when going into an interview, such as how to carry ourselves with grace and what’s appropriate attire,” explained Lewin.

While Lewin and Oliveras did not end up selecting the models themselves (all the video speeches and applications were reviewed by Ann Taylor Corporate in New York), the applicants had to complete a casting call application as well as hold a 30-second “elevator speech.” The point of the video, as opposed to a model headshot, was so that Ann Taylor could find young women who not only looked the part but could also serve as Ann Taylor role models.

The five models selected were fourth-year Jordan Dexter, third-year Comfort Clinton, fourth-year Desiree Dickerson, second-year Esther Yu, and second-year Maggie Zhang. Once their names were announced, the next step for Lewin and Oliveras was to stage a photo shoot.

The models were brought downtown on the Saturday following the event. “The day started early, around 8:30 a.m.,” explained Lewin, and the girls took part in an in-store makeover, with clothing selected based on their proposed majors, which encompassed areas of finance, arts, technology, and medicine, among others.

“When we were dressing the models for their in-store makeover we kept in mind which industry they would be interviewing for and created looks with variety based on that,” Lewin said.

Afterward, the models were brought back to the University for an on-campus photo shoot that was shot by a professional photographer. The resulting pictures were sent to Ann Taylor Corporate Headquarters in New York where a number of looks will be selected and posted online.

These photos will be included in the online lookbook, which will be live later this month.

“You should check it out,” laughed Lewin.