Friday, April 16, 2010

Fancy-Pants J. Crew

Everyone who's been around me in the real life knows that I'm a J. Crew kind of girl, regularly wearing everything from the sequiny-ruffly tees of recent seasons to the bicolor anorak my brother got sometime around 1992 (I'm bringing it back).

I spend considerable time with every J. Crew catalog that passes through my kitchen, so I've noticed the company's shifts and shuffles, design-wise. I still remember the very first J. Crew catalog I ever received, sometime in the late 80's or early 90's. The clothes reminded me of The Gap/Brooks Brothers/Lands' End/L.L. Bean. Preppy staples, nicely made, with creatively named colors (flag=blue, in case you were wondering). Which worked out for me, since preppy staples are my wheelhouse.

The most significant shift in the company's design philosophy I remember occurred in 2001 or 2002. I was in my mid-20s. Cooper and I had just started dating and we were flipping through a catalog when we both realized we kind of hated all of the clothes - which included a lot of puffy sleeves and ruching, all in vomity sorts of colors.

Fortunately, that design detour didn't last too long and soon enough the brand steered itself towards bright colors, big patterns, sparkly jewelry, and spot-on partnerships with established brands (Dixon's Jack Purcells are adorable. So are his Sperry boots.) But has it gone too far in the high end direction?

That's the question Lindsey of Dalliant & Dainty (aka my sister's roommate) takes on in this really solid post about the company's design-and-price-point direction. Her verdict is that the company is in good shape for now, but needs to be really careful about managing the brand, to make sure it doesn't lose its everygirl accessibility.

It's well worth a read, especially for anyone who's laughed a little bit at some of the J. Crew collection prices, or who's not quite sure how to feel about seeing a J. Crew dress on the red carpet.

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