Is Pendleton….Hip? Also, J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons Profiled Everywhere

Well now, didn’t yesterday turn out to be more than a little wacky? With all that shakin’ going on and Hurricane Irene looming, we take a moment to send good thoughts to everyone impacted, batten down the hatches.

We move on to chatter about a company we have long been fond of, Pendleton; it’s one of those brands many of us grew up with, representative of what many refer to as ‘pure prep’.  It is still a name we think of every now and then, the memory jarred by a decades-old skirt hanging in the winter closet, or a neatly folded sweater stashed away until colder temps return. We also enjoy popping into our local Pendleton boutique, the quality of the clothing is one reason we harbor such positive feelings about the company, everything is very well made.

But let’s be honest, when you hear ‘Pendleton,’ is this what you think of?

Pendleton Woolen Mills

Would you be surprised to learn these are also part of the fall collection?

Pendleton

Above left is the company’s Soho skirt and on the right, its Consuela Short Skirt.

Last week one of our favorite columnists at The Los Angeles Times wrote a piece asking the question “Can Pendleton conquer the hipster class?” More from Times fashion critic Booth Moore:

For many, the brand is associated with career clothes and mom jeans, with Indian blankets and plaid shirts worn by the Beach Boys.

Pendleton via The LA Times

The picture is from 1963, it was used on the cover of the band’s “Surfer Girl” album. In a recent story Mr. Moore delves into Pendleton’s history and future, with a detailed look at the brand’s upcoming Portland Collection.

But Pendleton has been working to attract a new generation of contemporary customers for the last few years… Now Pendleton Woolen Mills, Oregon’s 102-year-old, dyed-in-the-wool blanket brand, is continuing its move into the boutique fashion business by tapping into the indie cool of Portland…

Styles from the Portland Collection.

Courtesy Photos

More styles.

Courtesy Photos

Back to Booth Moore’s article:

“The clothes nod to the season’s western trend, but in a quirky, alterno kind of way. The Pendleton jacquards, done in black and white, read more graphic and modern than Santa Fe style circa 1990. And the famous plaids aren’t outdoorsy so much as they are nerd-chic.”

Clearly, your trusty correspondent is unlikely to be found in pieces from the new line; we applaud Pendleton’s efforts to evolve the brand while remaining true to its core audience. As Mr. Moore’s story points out, they aren’t alone in this kind of endeavor.

Pendleton, headquartered in downtown Portland, follows several other American heritage brands in looking to the past to forge the future (Lands’ End, L.L. Bean, Woolrich Woolen Mills).

An image from the firm’s website shows a reference to its storied past with the ‘Right Then, Right Now’ graphics.

Pendleton

We have previously looked at Pendleton’s evolution, including this post in 2009 previewing its collaboration with the oh-so-hip Opening Ceremony.

The Portland Collection launches right after Labor Day and will even be available at some Anthropologie stores.

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Also today, word of some unhappy J. Crew customers in Canada. The retailer opened its first store there last week and pricing differences between the two countries has upset shoppers. From a story in the Globe and Mail:

“For online customers, taxes and duties raised the final price for orders in some cases by as much as 50 per cent compared with the U.S. site they previously ordered from.”

One challenge facing anyone opening new markets: technology that simply wasn’t around fifteen years ago, making pricing information available to anyone.  Back to the story:

“…the quick and angry response from customers to J. Crew’s hiking of domestic prices underscores its customers’ familiarity with its products and prices, and the easy access to its e-commerce site to make fast price comparisons.

Here is more in a story titled Why is J. Crew charging us so much?:

“The disparity is particularly noticeable online, where the final prices on J. Crew’s Canadian site are as much as 40 per cent higher than on its U.S. site once taxes and shipping are added.

For example, the U.S. price for a pair of Café Capri plaid wool pants is $138 while the Canadian price is $160, a difference of 15 per cent. Once shipping and taxes are added, the U.S. price is $159, while the Canadian price is $223, a difference of 40 per cent.”

Below we show two pair of the Café Capri pants, in Plaid and in Houndstooth, both are priced at the amount mentioned above, $138.

J. Crew Café Capri pants

In all fairness, most retailers entering the Canadian market charge higher prices, it is more expensive to do business in that country for a variety of reasons: higher taxes, additional fees, fewer (if any) distribution points, etc.  More from the Globe’s story by Marina Strauss:

Other retailers have felt consumers’ wrath about higher prices in Canada compared with the U.S. Last spring, a study found that Canadian prices were 20-per-cent higher than those of the same products in the United States, while two years earlier the spread was less than 7 per cent.

Crew is also launching online shopping in the UK soon, its experiment selling through Net-a-Porter has been so positive a dedicated website is in the works, more from The Telegraph:

“Admirers of Michelle Obama’s colourful style will be happy to hear that J.Crew, her go-to retailer for affordable and stylish additions to her wardrobe (and that of her two daughters), is to launch in the UK at the end of the summer.

Although yet to be confirmed, prices are likely to come a little bit higher than in the US due to import duty, as reflected in their offering on Net-a-Porter.”

There have been several recent profiles of Crew’s CEO Jenna Lyons including a Q&A format in the National Post and New York magazine’s in-depth piece, it goes back to Ms. Lyon’s early days with the company

J.Crew was a small company in 1990, when Lyons went in for an interview. The brand styled itself as an energetic all-American label that was neither Talbots nor Ralph Lauren nor L.L. Bean. “J.Crew was the life that you could have,” Lyons says. “It was about hanging out. There was no price of entry. You might have a house in Maine on the beach, but you didn’t have a yacht and twelve horses.”

Below we see Ms. Lyons at work.

Martine Fougeron for New York magazine

More from Molly Young’s article.

Where feathers and sequins meet J.Crew is largely a matter of styling, and though Lyons dislikes the word preppy, her choices always invoke the core prep values of ease, cleanliness, and conservatism. If her company has always prized a kind of sartorial comfort—nothing too tight, too short, too synthetic—then Lyons, with her bare face and occasional bralessness, is what happens when comfort meets chic.

I very much enjoyed the story, click here to read the entire piece.

We leave you with this image from the just launched Lulu Frost for J. Crew collection.

Lulu Frost for J. Crew

The collection is now available in stores and online, princes run from $45 to $135.

Until next time. have a splendid day!

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7 Comments

Filed under preppy

7 responses to “Is Pendleton….Hip? Also, J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons Profiled Everywhere

  1. I like the plaid in the top left skirt, but find that whole hits-center-on-hips pleat thing to be a bit unattractive on anyone with normal hips. I dislike bias cut wool plaid skirts wholly.

    I like the skirt on the left in the second row, but can’t tell what it’s made of. Denim? Cord? Wool, I assume? That’s my style of skirt. Loathe the cheapy-looking blanket skirt on the right.

    I think Pendleton is trying to take its market share of LL Bean Signature and Lands End Canvas. I’m not sure it’s totally hitting the mark, though. Just make me some plain, a-line plaid wool skirts, Pendleton! Do what you’re best at!

    Jenna Lyons=fascinating but ubiquitous. Her choices for the company are anything but conservative. Dig the bangle bracelets.

  2. So far I don’t think Pendleton has hit the mark. Maybe they will. And those bracelets – Alexis Bittar for less!

  3. And this is why Canadians just cross the border to shop.
    Remember when everyone was soooooo excited that Target is coming to Canada? Remember I posted this http://thelifeofasuburbanprincess.blogspot.com/2011/01/target-is-coming-to-canadabig-whoop.html
    I knew JC coming here wouldn’t be the wonderful experience people thought it would be.

  4. I think some of the Pendleton things could be good looking paired wtih something a little more for lack of a better word “more fashionable”. Some of the plaids I happen to really like but would want to pair it with something a little more modern and younger looking to not have it look too matronly.
    I like J Crew, but have to say I feel that they have somewhat alienated some of their customer base (like me a 46 year old) who doesnt’ have a 16 year old body..boo hoo! Love the bracelets!!

  5. Love the skirts!! And of course J. Crew!

  6. Preppy 101

    I always equated Pendleton with quality and timelessness, but honestly haven’t purchased anything new from them in years. We do have an orange University of Tennessee Pendleton stadium blanket {with football player applique in the middle} that I bought for my husband in the 1970’s! It’s a treasure! Those are my favorite Pendleton items! :-). Love the cafe capris from J. Crew along with those bracelets!! xoxo

  7. My older son was quite pouty that his wish to visit Pendleton was turned down. It’s intrinsic Americana .. like Native American rugs and blue jeans. Democratic and universal. Love the idea of old leather chairs with the scruffy Pendletons thrown just so.

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