Shopping for a Long-Term Relationship

Hingham, Massachusetts

Nothing is more important to the success of our business than the relationships we share with our clients. One of SMMA’s longest-standing clients, Talbots, has been with us since the 1970s, when the fashion retailer sought our help in moving its corporate headquarters to a campus of warehouse-style buildings in Hingham. Primarily a catalog operation at the time, Talbots’ business has grown substantially in the ensuing decades, resulting in SMMA designing more than 200 brick-and-mortar retail locations, including flagship stores in Chicago, Toronto, and London.

In the mid-1980s, a decade into our partnership, SMMA designed Talbots an award-winning, 360,000-square-foot distribution and fulfillment center in Lakeville, capable of supporting their burgeoning business and rapid growth. Many of the design features were cutting-edge at the time; windows at each shipping bay were placed to allow natural light onto the warehouse floor, and a reflecting pool and fountain served as the complex’s fire-retention pond.


From the early to mid-90s, our work for Talbots included master-planning the company’s property—providing all necessary design and documentation for MEPA approval, as well as for various town agencies and commissions—and designing the new face of the corporate campus at One Talbots Way. We also provided services of a significantly smaller scale—including designing scaffolding for a fashion show, dispositioning buildings, and performing underground site work.

Reflecting the Brand

Our most recent work with Talbots has comprised significant interior renovations at its headquarters. The client moved its call center to a less expensive part of the country, leaving a few holes in its office space. We sought to design an environment supportive of Talbots’s varied business functions and reflective of its brand and cultural identity. Being merchandise-based, the company has lots of products in the office—from items on hangers to shoes and accessories, fabric swatches, and pin-ups for catalogs and stores. Taking this into account, we designed spaces for rolling racks, and also lowered workstations and placed stand-up worktables within pods, to promote collaboration. As a backdrop to fashion, we utilized a palette of neutral colors, incorporating pops of signature red and adorning the walls with quotes from Nancy Talbot.  

We also revamped the headquarters’ cafeteria, transforming it from a dreary, completely underutilized space to a destination for employees—a place where they can get away from their desks and take a break from their work, or have group meetings outside of a conference room. We created a variety of spaces for eating—stand-up “farm” tables, lounge furniture with AV hook-ups, soft seating at the window line—re-carpeted with sparks of Talbots red, painted the existing wood ceiling white, and re-lamped and added newer light fixtures.

Bringing the Big City to the Suburbs

With the success and energy of the renovated spaces, Talbots determined that it made financial sense to build a photo studio on site. Previously, Talbots would have to rent out studio space for shoots, many of which were in New York. The new in-house studio brings a Manhattan feel to Massachusetts' South Shore.