An old J.Crew catalog—do we really want that back?
For nearly a year now, maybe longer, J.Crew’s customer has (allegedly) been begging for the old J.Crew to make a comeback. Headlines like, “J. Crew customer shares why she thinks the company is falling apart,” and “Dear J.Crew What Happened to Us?,” have dominated the news, accusing both the brand and President/Creative Director Jenna Lyons of pushing the brand too far into Fashion and away from preppy classics. Last night, on their Q2 earnings call, CEO Mickey Drexler reiterated what he said last quarter which is basically, “Chill out, we hear you.” Ok, in his words, it was, “Our core heritage businesses are taking up a bigger percent of our investments, and our high-end fashion, a lesser percent of investment, and lesser percent of perception.”
From a business perspective, the brand obviously needs to make a change. (As I write this story a friend says, “I bought a cute skirt at J.Crew last night. It will probably go on sale tomorrow.” Unprompted!) But from a fashion perspective, why can’t we leave it alone? Instead of trying to turn J.Crew back onto basics, why not let it do its thing and turn to other stores for the elevated staples J.Crew used to churn out?
Ann Taylor’s chic basics can fill the J.Crew shaped hole in anyone’s heart.
If there was a way for J.Crew to politely steer its less adventurous customers toward Ann Taylor, for example, they would not be disappointed. A store I used to consider too fuddy-duddy for my mom has, for the past two years, been making sleek work clothes, on trend-accessories, and well-cut jackets that would seamlessly blend into a wardrobe otherwise full of Alex Wang or Rag + Bone. But they also offer straightforward sheath dresses and suits and trench coats and silk blouses—not to mention printed jumpsuits and party dresses if you do want something fun—most of which top out around $80. And the brand’s slouchy secondary line, Lou & Grey, is a treasure trove of cotton, linen, and even silk basics at very reasonable prices.
But while we’re at it, let’s point out how great Ann Taylor’s accessories are this fall.
Or what about Banana Republic? Former J.Crew designer Marissa Webb has quietly revamped the once beige brand into something less boring but not exceptionally fashion-forward—which is fine, not everything needs to be fashion forward.
If J.Crew wants to be, why not let it? Its Collection is awesome—sophisticated and elegant and priced competitively within the contemporary arena in which it’s trying to play. The clothes are well-made, beautifully tailored from rich fabrics. The only reason anyone thinks it’s over-priced is because the label inside reads J.Crew and we still think that means a cotton polo shirt and pleated khakis. But maybe it wants to mean sequins and tassels, and what’s wrong with that?