As is I’ve always found J. Crew to be overpriced given the lack of luxe fabrics (though admittedly, they do have some nice cashmeres), and lack of any real design in their collections.
So, I was surprised to learn from WWD that the brand was opening a Collection store. Located on 79th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan, the store, like their lower-priced counterparts, encourages mixing modern pieces with vintage. In this case however it’s actual vintage, not J. Crew’s take on a vintage piece.
In fact, the store carries both J. Crew and non-J. Crew finds and in an attempt to break away from the good-girl-prep/WASP image they’ve come to be associated with they’ve taken risks with styling pairing, for example, a brocade evening dress with a thin handmade belt and a cashmere scarf. Who exactly is this supposed to appeal to? It seems to me that they are alienating their core customer with little hope of attracted new ones. Of course, whether or not they will succeed in attracting the more fashion forward set remains to be seen, but it seems unlikely that mismatched pairing of sportswear and eveningwear is the key.
Given the more daring styling I was surprised to hear Millard “Mickey” Drexler, J. Crew’s chairman and chief executive tell WWD that “People tell me, ‘How about putting up a bigger sign,’ but we don’t want to intrude on anyone. In an Upper East Side building, I don’t think big signs are very elegant. The last thing people want to see is their neighborhood become a strip center. It’s our way not to be out there, but to be there” – very true but located just a hop skip and a jump away from the likes of boldface boutiques (with bold signage), Searle and Intermix, both of whom are no doubt major competitors for the new J. Crew store, I have to wonder how J. Crew will manage to stand-out.
In this economy, where even sure-things like H&M have reported losses selling $2,200 calfskin jackets, $495 textured calfskin skirts or $1,800 patent leather jackets lined in silk twill with a Ratti print will be no easy fete. And would you really want to buy a Rolex watch in a J. Crew store? Maybe it’s the Jew in me, but the only thing I find tempting is a vintage “Mazel Tov” charm bracelet and even that I’d questioning buying at a J. Crew store.
Images courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.