I remember J. Crew as the chain store that was a cut above the rest. They were not mainstream like Banana Republic, Gap or Anne Taylor and there was definitely a level of exclusivity associated with the brand. Their preppy and fashionable products were more expensive, but the quality and drape was impeccable. When you bought an item from J. Crew, you knew you had something fairly special that would last and look good for several seasons. J. Crew also hardly ever went on sale, sticking to two main markdowns a year.
Unfortunately, my impression of J. Crew has changed over the last few seasons because I think they’ve decided to become more mainstream. I’m still super excited when I receive their state of the art catalogs because the colours and ensemble combinations are innovative, attractive and inspiring. But when I get to stores with my clients, I’m usually disappointed because the look, feel and fit does not pack the same punch. The prices are lower than they used to be, but the quality and overall integrity of the merchandise has gone downhill too.
Don’t get me wrong, J. Crew still offers fantastic products and I have a few hanging in my wardrobe. But part of me misses what I know as the old J. Crew. I’ve only lived in America for six years so my perception might be distorted. Am I being unduly harsh? Or am I mistaken that their products used to have more crispness and panache? Do you think the merchandise lives up to the catalog?
Current J. Crew CEO, Mickey Drexler, used to run Gap INC. I can’t help but wonder whether his strategy is to move J. Crew to a more mainstream target audience.