J. Crew’s CEO: Designs Have “Strayed Too Far” From Classics

Hello-Hello and happy new week to everyone.

We begin today with word that J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler acknowledges the brand’s merchandise mix may need tweaking, with an eye on some of those items that originally made it popular.  The news surfaced via a Forbes post by writer Chris DeRose, who shared his wife’s recent experience with J. Crew. More specifically, with CEO Mickey Drexler and other company executives. From the original post by Mr. DeRose, detailing the email his wife sent to Crew after looking at a preview of the retailer’s fall/holiday collection:

She had written the kind of email you assume goes into a black box and will never be read by an actual decision maker. Perhaps that was why my wife let fly some of the pointed candor usually reserved just for me. “I am so disheartened and disappointed that you are leaving your core values and styling and abandoning your loyal customers,” she wrote. “I would have thought you had learned your lesson at the Gap!! Why mess with these iconic brands and change them into something they’re not?” Ouch.

Below, three ensembles I snagged from the J. Crew Fall/Holiday Lookbook and edited together.

J. Crew

J. Crew

From everything seen above it looks like there is a great navy blazer that would hold the only most appeal for someone with a prep aesthetic.

Back to the story. Not only did people at Crew take the criticism offered by Ms. DeRose to heart, Mr. Drexler got in touch with her.

After emailing a response note in less than 24 hours, he and J. Crew President, Libby Wadle, left a voice mail with cell phone numbers and then took her call when she rang back. In other words, Mickey Drexler went out of his way to do what an unfortunately small number of CEOs practice – he went the extra mile to get direct customer feedback.

It’s no secret the fashion world loves J. Crew these days, it is especially laudatory of the influence Jenna Lyons has had on the brand. Below, a snippet of Fashionista‘s story about the CEO reaching out to a customer.

As we’ve made obvious here, we can’t get enough of the fashion-forward styling that Jenna Lyons and Mickey Drexler have brought to J.Crew.

The sentiment is echoed by the good folks at Racked.com:

The fashion media applauds the excitement Jenna Lyons has injected into the brand with her distinctive preppy-chic point of view, and Racked readers, at least, tend to agree with the media. J.Crew’s New York Fashion Week shows are by far the most popular shows of each runway season on Racked.

Edgier style elements remain a significant part of the fall merchandising plan: pattern-mixing, nerdy-chic, multi-layered looks and other ‘hipper’ styles continue to play a front and center role. Trendier goods also continue to be offered via collaborations with a variety of brands, part of its “In Good Company” line of goods. One of the recent partnerships is seen below, Crew’s collaboration with A.R. Trapp, the small group of glasses offered via J. Crew range in price from $450-$495.

J. Crew

J. Crew

This is certainly not a new topic here at the Prepatorium, we have long whined nattered on about the changes at J. Crew, the ‘hipster’ influence, quality issues with some items, and other related topics. There’s nothing wrong with any of the J. Crew moves for those fond of the new designs, or those applauding the company’s pursuit of a more fashionable customer. Crew has targeted a younger, aspirational clientele, going after many shoppers who were cut out of the lower-end luxury market during the recession.

It’s only an issue if you were one of Crew’s more traditional customers fond of the brand’s basics. For example, a shopper seeking a basic woman’s polo at JCrew.com. What would you find today if looking for such an item? One shirt. You can have it in white or navy. That’s it. There are plenty available for Men and Boys, but that’s not the issue, it is really the women’s clothing and accessories that are under discussion.

At any rate, we return to Mr. DeRosa’s post about his wife’s conversation with J. Crew exec.

 Drexler also stood his ground on the need to continue evolving the company’s style as competitors attempt to copy its success. He went on to say, however, that in the company’s desire to embrace change, the team also shared the view that some of the styling had perhaps strayed too far from the classics and brand messaging for which  J. Crew had become known.

Drexler’s views had been shaped, in part, by his recent trip to stores with Wadle so he could hear firsthand from customers and frontline sales associates. “We are on it for sure,” he later emailed my wife. “I hope you see a difference this fall.”

To read Mr. DeRosa’s entire post, click here.

Hmmmm. What do you think? Is there a chance Crew will offer more things that may deserve a place at your Palace?


Today’s other tidbit involves another Target collaboration. The company has another round of items for sale by UK designer Orla Kiely. Some may recall the line of home good Ms. Kiely created back in 2009 for the cheap-chic retailer. The designer is seen below right, Tennessee Thomas is on the left.

Steve Eichner/Women's Wear Daily

Steve Eichner/Women’s Wear Daily

This time it is accessories for those tech devices we all seem to lug around. There are 18 pieces in the collection, and nothing is over $50.

Montage via SheFinds.com

Montage via SheFinds.com

You’ll find covers and cases for iPhones and iPads, but not anything for android or other devices. (If seeking a little something with preppy panache for your Samsung S II, III or IV, we can help.) I am a fan of Ms. Kiely’s work, her prints have a whimsical, retro feel that is appealing.

G’bye until next time!



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

5 Responses to J. Crew’s CEO: Designs Have “Strayed Too Far” From Classics

  1. I have to concur about J Crew, they have strayed a bit and not sure if that was a good thing. I used to go there knowing I could count on them for classic elegant basics, but its harder to find. Lets see what happens….haven’t been super impressed by Targets collaborations and feel the quality is often lacking, but an A+ to them for trying and remaining innovative. Have a lovely evening!

  2. I find myself picking and choosing when at J Crew. I treasure the great pair of long PJ’s I got there last year. The pattern mixing is rather daunting.

  3. I don’t mind J. Crew dabbling in trends, but I wish the fashion forward clothes did not come at the expense of the basics.

  4. I am not a huge fan of Jenna Lyons and can’t even imagine ever dressing like she does. I don’t think that most people can dress like she does. At least not anywhere outside of NYC.

  5. It’s been years since I looked through a J.Crew catalog and found myself coveting everything in it. As I put together my wardrobe for this fall, I find myself frustrated thinking of what I *use* to be able to get at J.Crew as compared to what they offer now. It seems like J.Crew has become very “preppy-chic” at the expense of being classic.

Leave a Reply