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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cheers to Chai - A Review of The Latest GO International Collection - Part 1

On a quiet Thursday night I walked into Target hoping to see the new Richard Chai collection a few days early. Well luck was definitely on my side, because about 75% of the collection stood quietly on the racks. Surprisingly, there was no Richard Chai signage to accompany the goods, just the signage from the Private Label 2 collection. The three racks of Chai's clothing looked orderly and untouched, and most of my sizes were available, so I grabbed a very heavy armful of almost every garment I saw (except the shorts and two of the dresses) and headed off to the abnormally quiet fitting rooms for another Fashion Trend Guide GO International photoshoot. This time I grabbed a large, family-sized fitting room so I could use the extra space to take better photos. Unfortunately, the lighting at the store is horrible, so everything has a yellow tint to it, which I tried to remedy with little success using Photoshop.

Now on to the garments and my review. First off, cheers to Richard Chai (isn't he a cutie?) for making this the best GO collection ever. Richard, if you happen to read this, you are amazing, and I can appreciate the thought you put into your seemingly simple pieces. The seams and the design details are thoughtful and unlike that of anything I have ever seen at these price points or at Target. But that's what Richard Chai is known for, so I probably shouldn't be shocked. I can't help it; I was just amazed by the tailored, understated, and sexy fit of some of these garments, which the photos certainly do not do justice.

The first item I tried on was the jeweled top, which I'd seen in the print ads and wasn't particularly excited about. As it lacks a side zip or any closures, it can be tough to get on over the head/shoulders, but I liked the fit, the cuffed sleeves, the neckline details, and the lining. I sized up to a small to make it easier to get on and off. The plaid patches are a nice accent to the fabric that can be appreciated much better in person. I'll wear this with a stretchy belt, dark skinnies and killer heels for a night out or with tweed wide-leg trousers and ankle boots for day. My verdict on this top? It's a winner, as women of many ages and sizes can wear it. Its simple silhouette is appealing and it has a sophisticated, architectural look to it.

Richard Chai for Target
Richard Chai for Target
Next I tried the green tee, made of 100% rayon, which had a very flattering neckline with pleating and a draped panel of fabric sewn in the middle. This top will accentuate and enhance the bust area, so please be warned if you are large-chested. The jewel-tone emerald color is one of my favorites, and I also like the trim cut of the tee. It dips in towards the waist and flares out subtly in the hip area. It's quite flattering for a $16.99 tee. I definitely give this top a thumbs up for fit, price, and style. I bought it without hesitation, and it's one of those basics I'll be reaching for quite often as we head into fall.


Richard Chai for Target
Orange has to be one of my least favorite colors. It always has been. It simply does not flatter me. All of that went out the window when I saw this playful top with its ruffled bib, piped seams, and slightly transparent striped fabric. I appreciated the side zip, but the size extra small had armholes that were a bit tight, so I sized up to a small, and the tailoring is great. It's 100% cotton, so it will make a versatile layering piece either under vests and cardigans or over long-sleeved tops when it gets cooler. Although I can't stand orange, I liked the top enough to buy it. The design details won me over. Given my dislike for orange, it would have been nice to see it in colorways such as purple, navy, or even black.

Richard Chai for Target
Richard Chai for TargetThe fourth item I tried was the striped tank (made of 55% cotton and 45% rayon), and I bought it in an extra small, as it runs very large. Overall, the cut was flattering, as were the dynamic diagonal stripes in varying thicknesses. A note on the quality - there were threads hanging off the armpit area, but that's something I can fix quickly so I'm not too bothered. Also, the blue trim has a twisted effect that looks like wrinkling upon first glance. After inspecting the top more closely, I realized that it's supposed to look twisted. I wonder if it will still look that way after being laundered and ironed? Let's hope so.
Richard Chai for TargetAh, my favorite print in the collection. The graffiti rose print - a bit feminine, a bit arty. They didn't have an extra small, and the small ran large in the armholes and was too low cut in the front for my taste. I shall definitely return to buy this in my size. Perhaps I'll layer it under a vest or over another tank while it's still warm. I give this one a thumbs up for being stylish, simple, and inexpensive. It reminds me of the racerback tanks from the Private Label collection, and that leads me to wonder how much input Target designers have in these designer collaborations. I'm sure it takes some effort to rein the creativity of some of the GO designers and convince them to make (what I'd call less exciting) pieces that will appeal to the not-so-fashion-forward masses. Compared to previous GO collections which shall remain unnamed, this collection seems to be very true to the designer's aesthetic. I think Chai's recent collections are very wearable and translate well from the catwalk to the sidewalk. The GO pieces look and fit so much better than you'd expect from seeing them in the ads, the Target lookbook, or on the hanger. In my opinion, the fit, the details, the prints, and the tailoring are right on point in this collection.

Richard Chai for Target

Next up - the striped tank in black and gray. Just like with the graffiti rose print tank, there was no extra small, and the fit on the size small was not to my liking. I'll probably look for an extra small, because I think these tank tops are versatile pieces for transitioning from summer to fall. This one would work under my black tuxedo blazer or with the boyfriend cardigan in this collection. I like the rounded shape of the hem in the front and back (it dips down), like an old-school men's button down shirt. I give this piece a thumbs up for its interesting graphic print, neutral colors, unique hemline, and sexy racerback style.

Richard Chai for Target
Richard Chai for TargetMy praise of this line continues with the lavender swing jacket. It features amazing details for its $44.99 price tag. The color in the photos is distorted because of Target's yellowish lighting, so bear with me and imagine a faint lavender/gray color. The collar has pleating, the lining features a "Richard Chai" logo print, there are arced seams and pleats in the back, and two flap pockets in the front. It has a slightly flared shape, runs big, and feels amazingly comfortable. Although I didn't buy it, I'm considering it. It's a jacket that would work well for spring as well as fall in southern California.
Richard Chai for Target
Richard Chai for TargetOne of the pieces that disappointed me was the skinny jeans. They run large, and were not as tight as I like in the calf and ankle area. They have 1% spandex for stretch, and they feature seams down the center (front and back) of the legs and a Richard Chai (metal?) logo on the right back pocket. It seems like Target gave Chai more creative control over the branding and logos of his clothing than with previous GO deigners and their collections. Something strange that I noticed is that the button was on the left and buttonhole on the right, like the jeans I bought in London. I'm used to having it the other way around, so it's easier for me to push the button through the hole with my right hand, and it took a few extra seconds for my hands to get used to this. I passed on these jeans because they weren't flattering to my booty, although if they came in a darker wash and had a slightly better fit, I might have bought them.
Richard Chai for Target
Richard Chai for Target The 100% polyester bubble skirt came as a complete surprise to me. I am tired of all the bubble silhouettes, but when I tried it on, the bubble effect was minimal. I adore the two gray pockets in the front and the contrast gray waistband with its button and zipper closure. While trying it on, a button came off. Tssk tssk, Target Quality Control, there is room for improvement in the button department. I liked the color, shape, and soft satin finish of the skirt enough to buy it, even with the button falling off. Good thing I like to sew! Please note that the skirt runs big, feels more like silk than polyester/satin, and has "RC" logo buttons like a few other pieces in the collection. My verdict is a thumbs down for quality, and a thumbs up for design and fit. I'll probably wear this higher up on the waist with a belt and lower down without a belt.
Richard Chai for Target

Richard Chai for Target
I tried on a few more pieces (including dresses), but I'll save those for part 2, to come very soon. I'm most excited to find and try on the graffiti rose print dresses, the striped skirt, the vests, and the blazer. If the rest of the collection reflects the handful of pieces that I tried on, I have a feeling it will be the best-selling GO collection yet. I predict that many pieces will sell out, so go soon to snatch up the ones you covet! I had high expectations for Chai, and I'm certainly not disappointed. The colors, silhouettes, prints, and figure-flattering structural details prove that Chai knows how to make garments that make women look and feel fantastic.

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