Is There A Change at J. Crew?

Hello-Hello and welcome to a new week here at the Prepatorium, we appreciate you stopping in for a visit.

We begin today with an update on J. Crew, a brand we haven’t spent much time chatting about recently.  Canada’s Globe and Mail took a look at the company in advance of its first Canadian store opening.  J. Crew Primping for its Canadian Debut examines some of the retailer’s recent business decisions, this initial portion references CEO Mickey Drexler.

Customers were complaining that his stores no longer carried the “cafe Capri” women’s cropped pants. The shelves were stocked with too many ruffled tops and mini-skirts, and too few classics such as Italian cashmere sweaters, ballet flats and knee-length pencil skirts.

Mr. Drexler felt the pain. The missteps caused J. Crew Group Inc. to stumble financially. Today….he feels the pressure to once again generate the fashion hits for which he is famous.”

We selected a few examples relative to what the story discusses, beginning with Crew’s Schoolboy Madras Blazer, an item more in keeping with what customers would consider the brand’s heritage.  Although the shrunken cut may fit too snugly, at least the garment harkens back to the brand’s ‘preppy roots.’  On the other hand, while a pencil skirt is always in style, efforts to ‘update’ the look don’t work in the ‘Pleated Pencil Skirt‘ seen lower right, the detail at the hip is unlikely to flatter anyone bigger than a Size 2. (As a sometimes Size 4 we figure we’re allowed to grip about such things.)

Back to the Globe & Mail’s story:

J. Crew’s recent fashion errors underline Mr. Drexler’s strengths and challenges. He knew quickly last summer that some of the new younger styles weren’t working, and that the stores were under-stocked on classics.

More pieces probably unpopular with “old style” core customers include things like an Heirloom Lace Vest originally priced at $295, and a $150 Sequin Sweatshirt (now $99), garments that are simply not going to work for many. 

More from the story:

We skewed a little younger than we should have – a little more trendy,” Mr. Drexler….said in an interview…“We ran out of a lot of our best-sellers. When you don’t have enough of the best, you skew too young – you have a tough time. It happened. Right now it’s kind of fixed.”

Other items in the too trendy category would likely include the Mona Shirtdress (left) and the $995 Plumage Skirt, covered in feathers, now on sale for $599.

We thought the company did a decent job maintaining a core of perfectly acceptable pieces, much like the Cotton Dress shown below.

To be fair, we never encountered any difficulty finding basic cashmere pieces, like the sweater below.

Via J. Crew

But then we didn’t look very often, at least not in the last several years. Once a core customer is turned off by a brand’s offerings they are not as likely to pay casual visits to the retailer, either in person or online. There are too many other choices available in the marketplace, the retailing landscape too crowded.

One of the more interesting things about the story is the way Mr. Drexler is referenced throughout the piece, here is one example essentially saying the company is dependent upon his talents:

“Drexler is human and obviously made some mistakes last year,” said Mark Cohen, a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York and a former CEO of Sears Canada. “The good news about a one-man band is that, when in tune, the melody is awfully sweet. But when it’s off-key, the music is awful.

There is no reference to J. Crew’s President and Creative Director, Jenna Lyons.  However, it is possible the appeal she holds for many of the firm’s customers in the US won’t carry across the border until people are more familiar with J. Crew’s offerings.

In efforts to better engage customers the company has embraced social media, growing the content on its website in addition to using Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. For example, as in previous seasons, the fall lookbook is now available online.

Via J. Crew Tumblr

Here are three looks from the Fall 2011 line.

Via J. Crew

We do hope J. Crew is able to right the ship, for years the company did *many* things very well. More from this fall’s line.

Via J. Crew

What do you think, is the company getting back to styles you are more comfortable with?

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We leave you with a bright and fun image, actually a fundraiser for the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

National Aquarium

The limited-edition Lilly Pulitzer scarf is a fundraiser for the Aquarium, available now at the Aquarium’s gift shop. Here is a better look at the detail in the pattern.

National Aquarium

For an *outstanding* post on the topic, visit Let The Tide Pull Your Dreams Ashore.

Until next time, g’bye!

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27 Comments

Filed under preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle

27 responses to “Is There A Change at J. Crew?

  1. That scarf would be pefect with the orange polo I am wearing ATM!

    I dont bother with JCrew…people are excited here, kinda. No one I know IRL cares and I wont be shopping there until they bring back Critters. I doubt they will because companies like that dont bother catering to us old school preps.

  2. Love your review of retail shops.

    The upside and downfall of an almost fashion store is reaching which is usually a stall. Jenna Lyons is wonderfully professional and talented and a mismatch for a staid, classic yet younger than your mama’s kind of store. In my pretending to match up I’d send her instantly to Anthropologie which is suffering and could benefit from her young fashion and pretty sense. The skirts shown would likely sell there and all would be happy.

    Mickey Drexler needs to shut his eyes to fashion and rebuild as he did at the Gap (the level of suffering brought on by mistreating the extremely qualified, talented Patrick Robinson, subjecting his work to crowd sourcing of the lowest kind) which needs to look to merchants and buyers.

    This moment of interacting via social media seems to be confusing many fashion houses and designers. It’s not about changing a style but tuning in as once was done on a shop floor to know that customers tugging a skirt lower means longer, that depletion of a certain size means recalibrating orders, etc etc etc

    Barneys is unspeakable in its cruelty to 3700.00 Azzedine dresses and its very nice but wholly unsuitable Amanda Brooks. My ire is substantial, there should be penalties for the abuse of knits and shoddy storekeeping.

    Oops, gone too far.

  3. It’d be nice for them to get back to price points that I’m comfortable with as well. I doubt it was my imagination but their prices, over the past few years, have increased with each season’s change.

  4. EAS

    I am glad you enjoyed my post on the Lilly scarf unveiling party here in Baltimore! The scarves are even more beautiful in person.
    Thanks for the shout out! xx

  5. Although it has been some time since a purchase was made from J Crew, it is my hope that this “favorite” will return to the store that I have loved for many years. Fingers crossed!!

  6. Interesting about J Crew. I as an example until maybe a year or so ago was a very big shopper there for myself. Loved their classic staples in colors that were hard to find but with a litlte twist. Then I started seeing things get tighter, smaller, shorter and younger. They started to alienate me, that 40 something year old who likes to dress well and wants to maintain a certain degree of fashion, chicness but still being elegant and approrpriate for my age. No more was I able to do that shopping at J Crew. Oh I went back trying to get them to redeem themselves for me, their long standing customer but no such luck. Now I only go to buy gifts for girls or boys 24 and under:) I am happy people are taking notice of “the change” and hopefully listening and in turn doing something about it. This happened with Gap and other similiar chains that started targeting another audience, abandoning their initial core customer. It will be interesting to see how things play out with J Crew. I used to do some serious damage on my J Crew card and earned lots of free in store gift cards, my balance has been a big fat 0 for a long time. Go figure. Lets see what happens!

  7. PS On a lighter note love the LP limited edition scarf…now THATS a line that has remained tried and true!

  8. Bravo, J.Crew! Glad to see they’re turning things around in the classy and classic direction. I’m only 20, yet I have no interest in sequins and funky weird neon things.

  9. $995 FEATHER SKIRT at J. CREW = OBSCENE!
    Obviously this die hard preppy doesn’t bother to shop there anymore or this post would not have been nearly as shocking to read as it was!!

    On the other hand… I LOVE The Lilly Murfee scarf for The Aquarium!! The pattern is fabulous! xxoo

  10. Amy

    I haven’t shopped at JCrew for more than 2 items at a time in years. And even recently, if I go more than once in 6 months, it’s a shock. I probably haven’t paid retail in awhile. I just can’t stand their overpricing of items; it seems so cocky. Plus, the trendiness has ruined my love for their chinos; this last season’s skinny ones were nothing in comparison to the classics. I’ve worn them twice since buying them last fall.

    I truly do hope they can turn back around and get their heads straight. I miss the classics, especially the critter flip flops and such!

  11. Kate

    JCrew hasn’t made me happy in a very long while. Is it really that difficult to stay true to a vision? I hate to date myself but I must say they seem to have fallen into the same sticky situation that Talbot’s has encountered. Don’t they understand that if we wanted trendy and disposable clothing we would shop elsewhere???

  12. BethAnn

    I LOVE this post. First, I was just thinking this weekend that J Crew was “back.” I recently purchased some of their linen cotton v-neck tees and Perfect Fit 3/4 sleeve polos. For the first time in years, the M fits true to size, i.e., not like a Junior’s XS, and even has a little extra give for those more endowed. I am so pleased with them. Also, it has long been my goal to be able to purchase J Crew suiting as I have always loved the fabrics but the cuts were never right for my curvier figure. This weekend, the size 6 pencil skirt was perfect so I bought the suit coat to match – SUCCESS! Granted, the waist does need to come in just a tad but I could probably live without it if I didn’t have all of my suits tailored to fit perfectly. (I highly recommend this for any off the peg suit or dress if you are in a business environment. The extra $40-50 is so well spent, making the garment look much more expensive.)

    Second, while I live in Texas, I grew up in Baltimore and remember when the National Aquarium first opened. As addicted to Lilly as I am, I am rushing over to the gift shop, online, natch, to purchase this new scarf.

  13. Mary

    I certainly HOPE there is a change! If they make one more line of ruffle/sequin/lace infested garments I will be so disappointed- I hate feeling like I’m playing pretty princess dress-up every time I go into a store…. I think J. Crew’s prime was about six years ago. I bought six dresses from the Spring 2005 line and they remain my favorites today! Sturdy cotton, bright colors, not overly embellished nor plain. And I still covet the Jackie sweaters I from Spring 2006- no pilling even five years later!

  14. loopyloo

    Amen, Suburban Princess – bring back Critters! I can’t stand their cashmere offerings. I bought an expensive (is there any other kind?) cashmere hoodie a while back when I was trying to convince myself I still liked Crew. Stupid thing was so thin it was almost completely see-through. And another thing – Dear folks at Crew: 1) Unless you are catering exclusively to teens, your slim-fit cuts/low ride pants will not bring back your old customer base. 2) I’m not paying your large prices for completely inferior quality. 3)Bring the critters back already.
    Thanks.

  15. Little Red

    Like many here, I’ve ignored JCrew for the last year or two since all they’ve offered were ruffled tees, sequins, etc. But just within the past month, I’ve bought both a gorgeous white cotton v-neck sheath dress and a bunch of shirts and a lace shell.
    And major word on all the low-rise pants. They only offer a small selection of pants in an appropriate rise. I want a pair of pants in their awesome Super 120s fabric but I refuse to spend that much money on low-rise pants that I’ll never feel comfortable in.

  16. So funny – I totally missed the cafe capris this season. I have definitely noticed the younger skewing at J Crew but I still managed to find some pieces, particularly with accessories this year. And I found it very interesting, as you point out, that there was no mention of Jenna Lyons, whose name has become synonymous with the brand here.

  17. Pingback: Has J.Crew’s lost that lovin’ feeling? « trend.pro.se

  18. Preppy 101

    I felt the disconnect, but figured it was just my “age gap”. I don’t want to dress like Jenna Lyons – never have, never will. She is too trendy for me. You know me, TP – traditional and classic only please. I am encouraged by some of the current styles! Great post. xoxo

  19. I feel bad for J.Crew, but I totally agree that they’re way off on style lately. Honestly, I don’t think they ever even targeted a younger group, as one of their excuses stated for not doing well, as of late. Their clothes are just unflattering, or their colors are wrong. I used to only shop at J.Crew, now I never shop there. Once in a blue moon I’ll shop online, but not half of what I used to. Great post, PP!

  20. I do agree that J. Crew has been misguided in the past few seasons/ years, however it is interesting to note that in the last year J. Crew has garnered more attention from the fashion world than in years previous. I think it is important that they find a balance between statement pieces, and classics. Preferably with much more emphasis on classics, but those statement pieces are needed because you can only have so many pairs of khaki pants.

  21. J Crew lost my attention awhile ago. The quality decreased and who in their right mind would wear a lace vest or sequined sweat shirt? I won’t waste my breath on the plumage skirt. When will they learn that women want classic pieces that will stand the test of time. Is anyone listening?!!

  22. I wear probably too much J Crew, tho I agree, last year’s skirts were too short.
    Somehow, however, I am always finding the perfect thing for me. I work to shake it up so I don’t look like the catalog!

  23. *Golf claps* The “$995 Plumage Skirt” truly says it all, no?

    I’ll be back to J. Crew when they right their styling & quality ship. They seem to be doing better with the former, given what I’ve seen lately. However, I’m still having quality issues with them – for example, a basic sailor boatneck I bought in early spring has fallen apart in less than 10 washes. Not. OK. At. All.

  24. carly

    I never even bother shopping at J. Crew any more. They are outrageously expensive for ill-fitting, poorly made, hipster clothes. For the same price, you can get something beautiful and unique from Milly, Trina Turk, Kate Spade, etc. or spend way less and get basics from lands end.

  25. Nearly my entire wardrobe used to be Jcrew. Now I am lucky if I can find a headband that fits. It is all too trendy and geared toward skinny minnie teenagers. Sad to say that Jcrew and I broke up years ago. I’ve had a huge gift card in my purse for two years- still have yet to find anything. Sad sad… Here’s hoping they go back to their roots!

  26. Ahh, J Crew has changed. In the early 90s they had a wonderful return policy; remember their indestructible barn jacket that could be returned at *any* time? Then the prices went up, the fabric became flimsier with fancy names (tissue tees), and sequins or ruffles adorned ev.ery.thing. I do like a well-placed sequin for day, but will not spend serious money on what is, to me, catalogue clothing (mass-produced stuff).

  27. I guess I’m the only reader who disagrees. I adore JCrew. I used to think their clothes were old, boring and shapeless, but they have a more modern look now. I think preppy can still be interesting and sexy. The low rise is what finally sold me and I like that their cuts are more trim – they highlight a woman’s figure much more! The lower the rise the better!

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