Sunday, December 17, 2006

J.Crew, What's Your Deal?

I've always had a strange relationship with J.Crew. Except for the hit-you-over-the-head-with-preppiness stuff, I like their clothes. I flip through the magazines and wish I was as effortlessly put together as their models, who all look like the pretty girl you can't hate because she's actually sweet and funny (ugh).

See what I mean?

But I've had 2 serious issues with J.Crew. First, their clothes never fit me. I'm convinced that all their fit models are 5'4", with no hips, short legs and big breasts. Sadly, this is not my body type. When J.Crew was all the rage from 6th-9th grade (at least in my school), I vehemently denied this fact and continued buying their clothes anyway, too-short pants and too-baggy shirts. They were cute, but not flattering in the least.

My second issue with J.Crew is that their prices were always set a little higher than what I was willing to pay for a given piece, but not so high that I'd never consider it. If I saw a shirt and decided it was worth $30, it was $42, sandals that should have been $12 were $20. It was like they were reading my mind, and were playing a sick joke called "Will Meg Cave?" This drove me nuts.

I hadn't spent much time at J.Crew in the last few years, but during a trip to the mall a couple of weeks ago, I saw a few cute things in their window and decided to check out what they've been up to. I really liked what they had- so many pretty clothes and fun accessories; I was impressed.

Then I looked down and started noticing price tags. Wool mini skirt for $98, fleece hoodie, $68, jeans for $115? Was I in the right store? These were basics! Back in the day (like 2000) I remember their prices usually ranging between $30-$80, with coats, suiting and boots in the $100-$200 range. Now they're selling cashmere coats for $2000, silk dresses for $300 and shearling totes for $595.

It's obvious that J.Crew has decided to go far more upscale than their somewhat mid-priced competitors like Banana Republic. They're trying to appeal to an older customer with so many luxury materials and fewer entry-level pieces (like the canvas totes, bikinis and flip flops my friends and I coveted in the 8th grade). I have no idea how successful this has been for the company, so I can't comment on whether it's a smart business move, but as a consumer, I have to say that I'm a little annoyed. There are a lot of women who want reliably well-designed, high quality clothes for reasonable prices, something between the Forever 21 or the Gap and a luxury brand like BCBG or Anthropologie. There are way too few stores that fall in this middle ground (and are available nation-wide).

I'd love to hear what you guys think about J.Crew's rising prices. Are you buying their new high-end stuff, going to other stores to pick up basics, or sticking with J.Crew, higher prices and all? I find it hard to stay away, so I think I'm going to hit up their sale racks or outlet stores if I need the J.Crew fix.


Libby said...

I stopped shopping at J Crew because of the prices. Their stuff hasn't changed much, so it just isn't worth it to me anymore. I still go to Banana Republic,Gap, and Old Navy for basics.

Pauline Joy said...

I can't believe how expensive J. Crew has gotten, either! The other day, I went to do some online spelunkng (of the vast cavernous caves of online stores), and I happened upon the extremely pricey wares of J.Crew. Who does Sir "Crew" think he is? The prices are absurd for such a Banana Republic-esque brand. I perused the online shop and wanted to grab Mr. J. Crew and question him. Does he feel like he's more M. Jacobs? Or perhaps some other high-end brand? This is rediculous, and I don't think you're the only shocked shopper here.

Thanks for addressing such an issue (happy holidays!!)

Rebecca said...

I've been very disappointed that there isn't a J Crew here, but from what you've said I wouldn't shop there anyway. Where I live, Banana Republic is the most expensive store.

Fortunately for me and my budget, thrifting is decent here.

BTW, I'm linking you. :)

Anonymous said...

It's not only j. crew that has jacked their prices up. Within the last 2-3 years retail prices for sportswear have doubled acreoss the board for a similar and sometimes inferior product. Bergdorf has possibly tripled their prices to the point that their sale items still look like overpriced retail.
I suspect stores will stop doing this when women(and men) stop paying too much money for clothes fabricated in china.

Allyson said...

You are so right that jcrew has jumped above my budget! I received a $100 gift card for jcrew for Christmas, but can't spend it because everything is too much money! I am very dissapointed. I used to enjoy shopping there. Granted that was about 2 years ago. So sad. I will stop shopping there as well once I spend my gift card on some socks and hair bands.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with your comments about J. Crew! When I first started working after I graduated from college in 2003, I was able to buy suit pants for $78. That same style is now around $130 and I have had numerous problems with their pant and jacket linings (i.e. it is not a question of if they will rip, but when). I feel their workmanship is pretty shoddy, especially considering J. Crew prices. It is frustrating however since I really like the lines of their clothing, especially their dresses (which are also way overpriced).

Anonymous said...

J.Crew's prices are steep. However you are getting quality. They are assembled in china, but their fabrics and materials come from much more costly makers such as wool and cashmere from italy, madras from india, and tweed from england. J.Crew also has many exclusive colors and fabric combinations as well as exclusive styles.

So when you're looking at cashmere, jeans, or tweed from J.Crew think about the comparable: its not Banana, its Loro Piana, Seven for all mankind, or any other high end designer companies.

If you don't believe me, go ask and good employee at a J.Crew.

Anonymous said...

While inflation is a b*tch, I have to agree that J. Crew's quality, overall, is much better than Banana Republic's. Their designs and fit have gotten much better since I was in college (early 90s). The addition of a few much higher priced items (like the shearling coats) have raised the brand's profile ... I NEVER saw any mention of j. crew in Vogue when I was in college. In general I view J. Crew as a reliable and affordable source of clothing in a range of styles similar to the designers I like but can't afford (Prada, Marc Jacobs, DVF). I'd say their plan to target single professional women such as myself has paid off -- and the cashmere sweaters I bought 3 years ago still look good, as opposed to the cashmere blend sweaters I have from Banana and Victoria's Secret (totally dumping VS, btw, they've gone too slutty). That said, I don't typically buy cotton from j. crew, and I have become pretty good at calling what will sell out and what will be on sale. It looks to me like j. crew has two target markets -- girls at elite colleges (or girls whose parents sent them to state schools who wish they were at elite colleges -- takes one to know one, ha) and young single professional women, with the new crewcuts line for the attractive professional woman's small children. I've stopped buying Gap and Old Navy because I don't want to look like I'm 20 -- whatever happened to jeans in normal colors? I have some old Gap t-shirts that are still going strong, but have to say I've been underwhelmed by their other clothes lately, both in quality and workmanship. I may have to suck it up and buy khakis at j.crew! J. Crew may cost more, but the seams are straight, and I'm not going to be embarrassed to wear them after they've been washed two times. And I haven't seen a suit I'd be willing to wear to court in Banana Republic in a long long time.