An Introduction to CAbi

introduction to cabi

Several weeks ago, I was invited to attend Sccop, a twice-yearly event held by a clothing brand called CAbi. CAbi stands for Carol Anderson by Invitation, and you may not have heard of it because it’s not sold in stores. Carol Anderson used to design for Nordstrom, but more than a decade ago she decided to take her clothing line out of the retail environment and create a company that sells the CAbi line exclusively through consultants via in-home parties. Many of my former office coworkers and current friends and colleagues are HUGE CAbi fans and gush endlessly about the designs, so I was curious to learn more. But I’ll level with ya: I haven’t attended a CAbi party. In fact, the very idea of going to a friend’s house and get cajoled or guilted into buying something I didn’t want or need made me want to run for the hills. But if you read on, you’ll see why I’m warming to the notion.

CAbi_spring2013

I attended the fashion show that launched the CAbi Spring 2013 line, and it was a high-energy, high-production event with 3,000 CAbi reps in enthusiastic attendance. The photos in this post all show looks from the spring line, which were brought down the runway by a happy, dancing group of models. I’m pretty focused on classics and basics myself right now, and many of the garments were more on the fun and distinctive side, so while I appreciated the looks there weren’t too many that leaped out at me. I was also invited to peruse garments from past seasons and select a few for myself. Again, I didn’t find armloads of stuff to take home … but the pieces I did nab were extremely well made, fit beautifully, and felt great. (You’ll see them soon in outfit posts!)

CAbi clothes come in tall sizes and the line includes US sizes 0 -16 for most pieces. Most tops are in the $50 – $80 range, with sweaters, jackets, and bottoms between $80 and $115. Based on the runway show, photos I’ve seen, catalog images, and conversations with customers and consultants, it does seem that these clothes work on a relatively wide range of figure types. The clothes will hang differently on a woman with prominent hips than a woman with no hips, but they’ll work on both.

In terms of the sales side, anecdotal evidence suggests that the majority of CAbi consultants do not support their families on sales. It’s typically a side job, additional income for a dedicated purpose (college fund, retirement), or a fun and profitable activity for post-retirement years.

cabi_spring_2013

All of the consultants in attendance, all of the CAbi employees I’ve spoken with, and all of the customers I’ve ever met express a deep and abiding loyalty to this brand. Since my own experience is limited, I asked a few women to talk a little about their experiences with CAbi. First, I checked in with Alison of Wardrobe Oxygen who wears CAbi clothes fairly frequently in her own (fabulous) outfit posts. I hit her with the tough questions first: Did she find the sales system of in-home parties to be awkward? Did she feel pressured to purchase? If she doesn’t feel that pressure now, did she the first time she attended an event?

“I’ll be honest, my friend started selling CAbi, so I first saw the line in her dining room,” she said. “It was just me, her, my sister and a full length mirror and I just played with the clothes and she knew I wouldn’t buy anything. My first CAbi party was one I hosted. I think there were a dozen women, only about four of them made purchases. I had been to many other at-home parties where I felt major pressure to buy, but with the CAbi one, the way it was set up, you didn’t even realize if someone bought or not. There’s the spiel, then you’re encouraged to touch and try on the clothes and everyone splits up, sales happen but it’s not super obvious. I would feel pretty comfortable attending one even if I knew before I arrived that I wouldn’t purchase.”

I asked my friend Ann – an executive coach at Target corporate – the same question.

“I don’t go to any parties where I don’t intend to purchase something. I’ll turn down candle parties, food product parties, intimates, and more. Everything but CAbi and jewelry. Because of this, I don’t ever feel pressured to purchase and I appreciate the honest opinion from friends to keep me from buying something that doesn’t look good.”

When asked what appealed to her about CAbi clothing, Alison responded, “I like that there’s major thought put into each piece. How it will drape on a woman’s figure, how to make it versatile, how to launder it. A lot of the pieces I think look far better on than on the hanger or even their model because the pieces are made with such thought to multiple women’s bodies, lifestyles, and sartorial needs. I also like that they incorporate current trends but not so strongly that the pieces can’t be worn a couple years from now; a good blend of current and classic.”

Ann said, “I love the trend-right fit and fabrics that are so easy to mix and match. I work in downtown Minneapolis and while many of my peers wear business suits, I like CAbi’s professional style because it isn’t too formal.”

cabi_spring_2013_runway

I also checked in with Twin Cities CAbi consultant Lisa Weber, and asked her why she decided to move from a CAbi shopper to a CAbi consultant. She said, “I have worked a corporate job for over 20 years, following the rules of others and letting them define my success. I wanted to know what it was like to make my own rules and define my own success while doing something I really enjoyed. All of the money I make doing CAbi goes towards my kids college education fund and has allowed me make significant progress.”  Lisa also works a full-time, nine-to-five job.

When asked how she responds to folks who feel that the CAbi price points are a bit high, she said, “That is probably my biggest challenge from those who are not familiar with CAbi. The reality is that your CAbi clothes will pay you back ten-fold from a price-per-wear standpoint. You will find yourself reaching for your CAbi pieces all the time. You’ll look and FEEL great in your pieces, and eventually build a wardrobe that makes it so easy to put amazing outfits together.”

My overall impression is that the two features of CAbi clothing that appeal to fans are quality and quirk. The pieces are sturdy, well-made, and hold up to wear and tear. There are some basics, but many of the designs are eye-catching and unusual, utilizing vibrant prints and soft embellishments. These clothes appeal to women who are bored with mall offerings and looking for interesting pieces with personality. I’ve also heard CAbi devotees say that they adore the interchangeability of the garments. “Garanimals for grown-ups” is a phrase that’s come up at least three times from three different women.

cabi_spring_2013_confetti

But what really struck me about attending Scoop? The women there were SO HAPPY. They love these clothes, they love the designers and models and corporate leadership, they love the community of CAbi consultants and customers, and they love spreading the word about this line. It was a real joy to see. I believe that personal style should be fun and make you feel confident and capable, and I think CAbi helps women enjoy dressing. Some are rekindling an old love, some are delighted to have finally found a brand that resonates with them, but all feel invigorated, excited, and confident. This is a brand that works to empower its sales staff and help its customers look and feel their best. I can definitely dig that.

I plan to bite the bullet and attend a party this season. Still a bit hesitant, but curiosity is getting the better of me! Since so many smart, confident, stylish women are dedicated to this brand, I feel it’s worth exploring.

More reading and background on CAbi:

Are any of you CAbi fans? Do you sell the line, host parties, or shop? What do you like about it? What would you say to women who are hesitant about attending a party? If you’ve never seen CAbi clothes or attended an event, would you be interested in investigating further?

All images courtesy Rob Terry/CAbi LLC, except confetti shot by me.

  • http://newvintage.wordpress.com Andrea

    My neighbor sells CAbi and has invited me to several parties. The clothes look well made but not my style. Because the line does not include plus sizes, there is no point in my attending.

    • AB

      Second this re: plus sizes. Even just extending the line to 18 or 20. Plus I don’t like the idea of not being able to try on everything before I buy them. The main reason why my online clothes shopping is restricted to mass market retailers who have generous returns policies.

      • Lisa

        Here is where CAbi consultants are a step above the retail sales people in those mass market retailers who are there cause they have to be for the most part and not because they want to be or care about helping you look your best. I worked at Ann Taylor for years and Ann Taylor was all about the personal shopping experience. That is what CAbi is about. CAbi gives us an incredible amount of training on what styles work best for what body types, how to pair this with that, and how to build a great capsule for you for a limited amount of money and show you how you can get 10 – 15 outfits out of a limited amount of pieces.
        While it is true that we do not have everything in every size, we have been trained to fit. And we can tell by the gap or over lap what size you really need. So, there should not be any worries when it comes to not having something in your size. And regarding the return policies. CAbi has a generous return policy. Should you find that something just does not work or you need a size up or a size down, you have thirty days to contact your consultant and tell her you wish to return something. So, why not take the leap and try a CAbi party. You have nothing to loose.

    • Halo

      Thirding the comment about plus sizes. I would try CAbi in a heartbeat if they offered 20/22.

  • http://notdeadyetstyle.blogspot.com/ Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    I share the same reluctance to go to home sales parties — I tend to buy something because of social pressure, not because it’s the right thing for me. But I have found Cabi pieces on eBay and in consignment shops, and the quality is excellent, imho. I have a black coat-dress that I love, and it never seems to show wear. Looking forward to your review!

  • Susan

    I had never heard about CAbi before this post, but I do have some experience shopping for clothing with other lines which are sold in homes: Worth and Doncaster (www.worthny.com and doncaster.com). While I don’t love feeling a bit pressured to buy something, I HAVE loved the clothing and many pieces I have worn for years. The important thing for me has been to have a very clear idea of my lifestyle needs and to stick quite closely to buying items that fit my life. Worth and Doncaster have quite high price points, but I’ve never had a piece of their clothing which was not exceptionally well made with excellent fabrics.

  • Michelle

    I was invited to a party over five years ago. It is way more than I usually spend on clothes but I bought half a dozen pieces and they have been some of the best clothes I have ever had. They have worn well. Still look fashionable. And I still get compliments on them. I am with you though as far as staying away from the wilder pieces. Look for the classic pieces and see them as in investment. I’d say the party thing was the same as any party where they are featuring goods. You come expecting to buy something. There was no pressure and the sales person was professional and helpful and it was fun to shop with your family and friends in a low key setting.

  • Linda L

    My friend had a CAbi party that was a little different from the norm: the consultant left a rack of clothing at my friend’s house for a few days, my friend put out the word that anyone who wanted to stop by during those few days was welcome to try on the clothes and order if they wanted to. So when I stopped by it was just my friend and me, drinking a glass of wine and trying things on. I didn’t feel pressure to get anything, but I liked a few items and bought two: a printed silk tunic and a waterfall cardigan. I thought the prices were close to what I’d pay for full price items at Ann Taylor or Banana Republic, places I shop often. However, at these stores I always have coupons and sales so that I would end up paying a lot less. I felt that I wasn’t seeing these particular prints, colors, and styles in the stores; so I guess I would say the uniqueness of the items convinced me to spend a little more than I normally would.

  • Jenn

    I really like CAbi clothes and their blog, cabicanary.com is a great resource. Every season the blog has posts about mixing clothes between seasons, a few capsule wardrobes and lots of inspiration. I’ve never been to a party and I’m not inclined to host one but my local sales rep has a couple of times brought all the clothes to my house for a personal sale. That is impressive dedication since I live over an hour away. She also hosts regular open houses where people can come and see the clothes outside of a party. I’ve bought a few pieces on ebay and a few pieces in private shows. I’ve even had the experience of returning a piece which was a smooth process. I live in a rural area where people dress very casually and I work from home. I think I’d definitely own more pieces if I lived in a city or worked in an office.

    The downside is that a consultant’s samples of the clothing do not include every size for every piece. So sometimes you’ll have to try on something with a similar shape and imagine what the piece you’re interested in will look like on you. And sometimes delivery takes a while but I’m sure part of my experience is working with a sales rep so far away.

  • ClaraT

    I have never gone to a CAbi party, nor do I own any CAbi clothes. But I like them!

    That said, what appeals to me about the line is that it makes it easy to buy what I now know is called a capsule (so easy for you fashion bloggers and so hard for the rest of us!)

    The items are made to work together, so it is a snap to put together a bunch of outfits from a limited number of clothing pieces. I think that’s great. Plus the styles look nice on many people, as you noted.

    My wardrobe right now suits me, but were I to need some new outfits all at once (new job or interviews), I would strongly consider seeking out this line. I like the idea of shopping with friends–I’d just make sure I brought someone that I know for sure would give me good guidance.

  • Shay

    Gross, this is like one commercial. I thought your blog was better than this.

  • Care

    I just picked up a CAbi cornflower blue cargo jacket at the thrift store yesterday for $1.50. Had no clue about the brand, nice to know.

  • http://stylinstacy.com Stacy

    I buy CAbi clothes, and really like the quality, too. I have lots of CAbi in my outfit posts. I really love that they have LONGS for the pants. Normally dress pants are too short for me. I have gotten a lot of wear out of the clothes I have bought over the years. There is a beautiful velvet embroidered jacket that I have from several years ago. I get compliments on it everytime I wear it. It seems like their lines are getting more casual and moving away from office wear. Their current line is pretty casual. Not sure how much I will buy this time.

  • http://www.sheilaephemera.blogspot.com Sheila

    I actually bought two CAbi pieces – both second-hand! One was thrifted and one was consignment.

    This blouse: http://sheilaephemera.blogspot.ca/2012/11/nov-7th-outfit-7-dancing-queen-and.html
    and
    This leather vest: http://sheilaephemera.blogspot.ca/2012/01/layer-up-week-vest-over-jacket.html

    Both are superb quality: amazing seams and stitching, great fit and really nice material. I keep my eye out for it second-hand!

  • Deborah Voorhees

    I hate home parties, but do like some of the Cabi items. When I am visiting Oregon, I visit an outlet in Woodburn that has a Cabi store. I’ve made a number of purchases from the store. I also buy a number of pieces on ebay, in fact just purchased several beautiful jackets in the last month. The prices are much more modest at the outlet and on ebay.

  • Shiloh

    I’ve only attended one Cabi party and I fell in love with the line. I love how the clothes fit almost every shape and they are very well made. I like how there is no pressure to buy, it’s almost like going to a friend’s house and playing dress up with fabulous women. If I knew more people I would sell them myself!

  • Kate

    My friend invited me to a party last fall and I swore I would go and be supportive but not find anything to wear. Actually that wasn’t the case! I picked up three clothing items that were cute (though way more than I would normally pay for something similar). I didn’t really care for the prices or how off the sizing was in some cases. Luckily the rep bought several sizes of items to try on and I was able to guesstimate what sizes I needed–she also said the company was really good with returns if things didn’t fit.

    I’m not 100% sure I would go to a spring party if I was invited. I don’t really have any money in my budget for clothes, and what I do need to buy (pants/skirts) the rep probably won’t have in my size.

  • Ann Johnson

    I love Cabi clothes! I have a consignment store nearby that often has pieces for sale. I ALWAYS grab them and try them on. More than half the time I will buy the item. I am always thrilled to see that name in the tag. I have never been to a party. I wouldn’t mind going to one if there wasn’t too much pressure to buy. I didn’t realize until I read the above comments that you can buy this line at some outlet stores (last season’s). I will try to do that when I am traveling sometime. I browse eBay for Cabi as well. So far, though, my purchases have been from the consignment store.

  • Carrie

    Oh my goodness–I have to chime in–I’d never heard of this line until last spring, when I stumbled upon a CAbi outlet store in a suburb of Dallas. I’m not sure if there are other CAbi outlets, but for those who are understandably uncomfortable with the home-party purchase model, search for an outlet. I love the 4 items I bought there! They were pretty, well-cut, crafted of good fabrics, and slightly distinctive without being too off-the-wall. And the outlet prices were probably 20% cheaper or so than what Sal is describing here. I became a huge fan instantly!

    • http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com Alison

      There’s a CAbi outlet in Virginia at Leesburg Outlets and I believe there’s one at Jersey Shore too!

  • http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com Alison

    Thanks for letting me be a part of this post. I’ll admit when I heard about CAbi I was totally uninterested. I sold Body Shop at Home and hated guilting people into orders, my sister sold Pampered Chef and I hated feeling obligated to host a party for her. So when my friend Lisa told me I’ll admit I groaned. But CAbi does a better job of the in-home sales than others where at least for me, I haven’t felt a single guilt trip. I hosted a party last Spring and will likely host another. I also like that I can look at their site and order individual pieces when I want from my consultant without the whole rigamarole.

    And the clothes are pretty stellar. I even had a hang dry skirt accidentally go through the washer and dryer and it came out same condition. The only issue I find is that the sizing is a bit strange so I never know what size to get, and as a 5’3″ woman I usually find the sleeves of the jackets to be too long.

  • http://couturearts.wordpress.com Claudine

    I often run across Cabi clothes at the thrift shop. The fabric quality and construction details are impressive for mid-priced garments. I don’t own any because I make all my own clothes, but if I were to buy something, Cabi would be high on my list.

  • Elizabeth

    It’s funny that you posted about this – my mom was a Cabi consultant last season but doesn’t have time to do it. From my standpoint, the clothes are a bit pricey, but overall are well made and have some great designs. The styles are definitely more modern, but do cater to a wide variety of styles and ages. She found it a very great company to work with, especially with the massive enthusiasm for the clothes and the great friends she made with other consultants, but found it hard to find time to have enough parties to make it completely cost effective. I also found sizing to be very inconsistant – some garments run huge and some run tiny. It all depends. I also noticed that they tend to make things larger so women feel they are wearing a smaller size, which is not helpful for women who wear petites (like me – I have a couple xs Cabi clothes, but they are all slightly big). My mom also HIGHLY recommends their jeans which are of fantastic quality and flatter figures perfectly.

  • http://marketingmommy.blogspot.com Alma

    I was invited to a Cabi party about 7 years ago and bought a jacket for around $90. At the time it was one of the most expensive pieces I’d ever purchased, but it ended up being a good investment. I wear it still and always get compliments on it.

    That said, while I love to try on clothes in the comfort of my or my friends’ houses (we do clothing swaps a lot), I HATE the pressure to purchase at a home party and I did feel that at the Cabi event.

    It was also clear to me that the hostess was getting kickbacks in the form of discounts on her clothes, so I felt a little used.

    • Lisa

      Yes, that is a benefit to being a hostess. The opportunity to get some or all of your purchases at 1/2 off. Silpada, stella dot, pampered chef all do the same or something similar.

  • b.

    A couple years ago I followed a WIW blog run by two or three ladies from somewhere in the mid-South–Kentucky or Tennessee, maybe? One of them, in particulary, was a CAbi devotee…and then ended up having to shut the blog down because one brand she wore was making a legal fuss about her “using” their name. She wasn’t explicit, but it seemed obvious to regular readers that CAbi was the upset company. This was early enough in the life of the Blogosphere that I wondered if they just didn’t get it–to me, this lady was doing nothing but promoting (in a low-key, daily blog way) a brand she loved and wore regularly. That’s really stuck with me.

    Anybody else know what I’m talking about? Can’t remember the blog’s name for the life of me.

    • Lisa

      Yep, I remember – Cute On The Cheap, I think. I think she became a CAbI consultant and that’s when she had to stop blogging.

      • b.

        You’re right, Lisa–good memory! Looks like the blog still exists, but without that particular blogger. I still don’t understand why somebody who sells CAbi can’t blog about it, but never mind.

  • LaChina

    I’d never heard of them before, but their website had really cute pieces. I wish they were in plus sizes.

  • LK

    They make lovely clothes but they run small. I’m a 4 and I have some stuff in a medium. They are also extremely expensive. Get to know a consultant and jump on her out of season stuff when she discounts it 50%. Then they become a more reasonable price. Few things in that catalog nowadays for under $100.

    That being said, if I was rolling in dough I’d probably get most of my clothing from CAbi.

  • Makeup

    There is a CAbi outlet in Cabazon Ca. The clothes are expensive. Very cute though. I found this article interesting.

  • Amy

    I love CAbi. I was introduced to the brand while living in Southeastern Montana where in home parties and online shopping were our strongest options for purchasing clothes (unless we wanted to drive an hour and half or more to the same stores the teenagers shopped at). To echo a lot of what other CAbi followers are saying-the clothes are very well made and well worth the investment.

    The in home party aspect was honestly not as weird as I thought it was going to be. In actuality my experiences were empowering-the parties I attended had 10-18 people ranging in age from 20-70 years old, and we were all passing pieces around, trying different combinations and exclaiming, “That’s so YOU!” Some people purchased, others just tried on for fun, but overall it was an enjoyable experience. Our consultant had a huge assortment of sizes so I was never concerned about ordering something in the wrong size. They have a great exchange policy too-so when I did get the wrong size once it was quickly returned and the correct size sent to me.

    The CAbi Canary is their newsletter/blog and a great source of inspiration-even if you don’t have the CAbi pieces. My favorite issue so far showed how women of all ages can wear the trends.

  • http://Themommylama.com Sally Meggs

    I was introduced to Cabi a few years ago after hearing a general buzz (I kept complimenting people’s outfits and hearing “it is Cabi”) and then attending the party. I have since attended many, and have NEVER felt a pressure to buy. Since a party typically involves a presentation of the line, and then a long period of everyone trying on clothes, it is really easy to gracefully pass on any purchases. That having been said, I rarely pass on making a purchase — the Cabi items I have purchased have become the real staples of my wardrobe, with a few statement pieces thrown in here and there. They do a wonderful job of making each line work with items from previous seasons. I have become a real fan.

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  • http://www.theworkathomewoman.com/ Holly Hanna

    Thanks for including a link to my CAbi review — appreciate it. After attending the Scoop, I totally feel in love with CAbi. I’ve hosted several parties and plan to host another soon. Their clothes are not only stylish, but they are super flattering!

  • http://lauratanzeronline.com Mike

    Hello ladies,
    after reading many of these comments and some of your concerns about “pressure to buy” when attending a home party or event, I’m curious to read how one would compare the pressure to buy the same quality product in a retail boutique with the CAbi model. Does one model “pressure” the buyer more than the other? What benefits do you see in the home/party versus the boutique (or department store)? thank you in advance, -Mike