Monday, August 13, 2007

J.Crew Outdoes Itself

Nevermind that I haven't purchased anything from J.Crew in the last 5 years, every month their catalogue arrives on my doorstep like an earnest but annoying ex-boyfriend asking to be taken back. But instead of be impressed by their latest offerings, I entertain myself for hours (okay, more like 10 minutes) by flipping through the pages and laughing at the ridiculous outfits they construct out of over-priced, ugly clothes.

Is it just me, or does it seem like J.Crew is having a serious identity crisis? I've always though of them as offering preppy, feminine clothes with a slightly intellectual vibe to women in their 20's and 30's who want one stop shopping for everything from business suits to cocktail dresses to swimwear. It's also a distinctly East Coast lifestyle that's promoted, and the catalogues always invoke summers on the Maine coast and snowy New England winters curled up by a fire.

But browsing through the latest catalogue, I couldn't figure out exactly who J.Crew was selling to. They've hiked up the prices (as I discussed in this post) and have strayed from their signature look by referencing a number of different disjointed styles, places and periods. I challenge you to take a look at these clothes and tell me who the target audience is. More importantly, I'd be amazed if you could name anyone who actually does dress like this, or wants to start. Without further ado, let's take a peek at their lookbook, which can be viewed in it's entirety here.

You may remember Dick van Dyke in the classic role of Bert the chimney sweep in Mary Poppins, but did you ever think to blend his style with Kris Kross's signature backwards clothes? Luckily J.Crew did! Oh, and in case you hadn't heard, the puffy wrist is the new puffy shoulder.

If this boxy cropped jacket was paired with a form-fitting black pencil skirt and a pair of peep-toe heels, it would be perfect. But what woman wants to look sexy and sophisticated when she can pair a trendy jacket with loose, tapered, light washed MOM JEANS, complete with rolled hems?

Take a good look at this model. Doesn't it look like she's ready to check into a mental hospital? Also, 10 points from Gryffindor (that scarf?) for print overkill and hideous color combinations.

This outfit is for those girls who long for a simpler time, a la Little House on the Prairie, when hard labor was the norm and we lacked indoor plumbing, equal rights for women and shopping malls.

Again with the newsboy cap! Does anyone besides Sienna Miller even wear newsboy caps? I don't think I've ever seen one in real life. It's the last thing in the world I'd pair with this 60's style printed minidress, which looks like a skinny chick's muu muu. And as much as I love printed flats (J.Crew is really loving the printed flats this season), the leopard print with the blue and brown floral is simply overkill.

I'm not even sure how to describe or deconstruct the above outfit, but "wrong" pretty much says it all.

27 comments:

Deja Pseu said...

I haven't purchased anything from j.Crew in years either, mostly because I'm a few decades out of their target demo. Wow, they've gone off the rails a bit, haven't they?

However, I am intrigued by their Bella jacket. It looks like a nice fitted style with a some interesting details. Not sure if I'd want to pay full price for it, though.

Kori said...

Ughhh. They need a new stylist! Bigtime. The clothes themselves aren't bad, just overpriced, but the styling is laughably horrible.

K-Spice said...

haHA!!! Totally dead-on, and hilarious to boot! Thanks for my first belly laugh on an otherwise gloomy day! :)

Anonymous said...

if you take the time to look through the pieces on the website or catalog youll notice that MANY of the pieces are quite gorg. and are selling out online...so they must be doing something right
also they have high quality for a price more resonable then youd think ie: there bags and shoes are made in the same mill as prada in italy and use the same leather, but without the 4 digit price

-the bella jacket is to die for
-and dream bf cardigan is a very cool oversized cardigan that looks dead on trend with a belt on the waist......

Annmarie said...

They are selling newsboy caps and purple velvet jackets in their stores. I went yesterday looking for a nice jacket I could wear to a wedding in the mountains and decided I needed to look somewhere where they weren't trying to dress me as Austin Powers. Easy Halloween inspiration there though.

Allison said...

I will still buy basics (especially sweaters, oxford shirts, khaki pants) from J.Crew when they go on sale. Typically, the "stylish" items are what sell out, and the Wellsley cable sweaters and plain navy blue chinos go on sale and are snapped up by me at the end of the season. :o) I completely agree that their styled looks for each season are unquestionably off the deep end, and I wouldn't be caught in any of those items separately, much less combined the way J.Crew has them.

I don't get into high fashion. I want basics at a reasonable price. Good thing J.Crew still has outlet stores.

Kristi said...

Oh my goodness, I had no idea they had gone so down hill. I haven't been in one of their stores or looked at their clothes in ages.

jeni said...

The J. Crew catalog used to be the most popular thing ever at my high school, even though I grew up in Hawaii. My boyfriend got a $250 gift certificate for J. Crew for Christmas, and he offered to get me something, and I couldn't find a single thing to buy!

Rapunzel said...

I was in the store the other day and saw a lot of cute things (velvet jackets, an adorable yellow skirt, floral blouses, caps that were actually wearable, plus the wonderful staples like wool pants and cashmere sweaters. I saw a lot of things I liked, but the prices are WAY too high for me. If i'm to get anything form them it will have to be on sale.

However, this lookbook is INSANE. If i just saw it not knowing who it was from, i'd have never guessed that it was J.Crew. It's absolutely ridiculous. I've also noticed the catalogues seem to be losint their identity. Things are poorly paired and looking like they are trying to look more Abercrombie than J.Crew. When will they get it in their heads that people shop at J.Crew because they want the Classic Preppy look that they associate with J.Crew! Not the "out of the trash" wrinkled prep look.

Anonymous said...

Their catalogs drive me crazy because they match cold-weather clothes with hot-weather pieces. For example, you see a model in the snow, wearing shorts, sandals and a thick coat. I don't get it.

willikat said...

the prices are definitely getting out of control there. but they do also have many, many, many nice things that are priced less than counterparts at the department stores (designer lines). you have to shope there a lot and check in early during sales, because the good stuff disappears really fast, but i can say that i got a $500 wedding dress for $75, my sister got a $250 bridesmaid dress for under $100, and i have gotten several other pieces there reasonably. i agree those lookbook images wouldn't sell a damn thing to me, though. and i think prices on most things need to drop at least $20.

G.G. said...

Thank goodness someone finally said it!

Anna Rose said...

I actually quite like that old timey Little House on the Prairie dress... but I would probably only pay around $60 for it ($45 US)... so yeah... overpriced is the understatement of the year.

Anonymous said...

Your observations were dead on. I'd found myself gravitating away from J. Crew in the last year and just chalked it up to maturity or looking for some basics a little more interesting and pants more flattering on my non-stick figure. I even managed to get off their monthly catalog mailings! Now I realize there was a reason I stopped being interested. Been shopping Boden a bit now - they're expensive too, but classic in a way J Crew used to be and well made/cut (and their blend basic sweater is machine washable!!!).

J Crew's bags are great, however. I've got one of the tumbled leather totes and I use it everyday.

Jodi said...

Meg,

While I usually agree with the majority of your posts, I have to disagree here. Sure, posting a few examples of poorly styled photos can create an automatic assumption that the store itself has gone downhill, but it doesn't fully reflect the store as a whole. When visiting the stores, I always find the mannequins to be dressed beautifully and my roommate and I tend to lust after the catalog whenever it arrives at our apartment.

While some pieces tend to be slightly overpriced for my budget, I feel the need to remind buyers that often you are paying that price for a quality product. Also, it seems that the prices for most stores (Gap, Old Navy, Banana (which you mentioned)) have also increased - I think it's just a common trend.

So, while many of the pictures you posted do reflect poorly on the store, the pieces by themselves are quite lovely. Perhaps J. Crew's purpose behind the awkward styles has served it well - it got you to talk about it on your blog, didn't it? I commend them for taking that fashion risk... and technically, isn't that what fashion is about?

Elizabeth said...

Good try Jodi... Points for loyalty. But J. Crew does not get to claim they're taking a risk and being edgy with prairie dresses and newsboy caps.
And being ugly and old-fashioned as a brilliant strategy to get the fashionistas talking? It's sweet, but no. Fashion is one of the few industries where there is such a thing as bad press; if enough people your designs are ugly, no one will want to be associated with your brand.

Anonymous said...

i agree with jodi if you look at the pieces indvidually or the WHOLE look book many of the items this fall, are lemming worthy as blogdorf goodman has stated on the jackets..... some of the looks are put together in a mix match of paterns but thats the overall style for there look book, so that is the look they are going for but to say that the clothes as a whole are bad is very biased when all you showed were the more "out there" assembles from there look book

camilledelrosario said...

ditto on most of your insights. we don't have j.crew here on manila, but i seriously can't imagine anyone wearing those things.

-also on the newsboy cap. i tried it on, and it made me look so tomboyish. and it seems so detached from most 'wearable' outfits for women.

cheers from manila,
camille
www.meet.camilledelrosario.com
--

Kelly said...

I partially agree, partially disagree. J.Crew does have some wearable stuff, mostly their button downs work well for me. However, I don't get the trend (a la prairie dress) to dress women in these supposed "vintage" styles that in fact just set us back to the era when we had a fraction of the rights we do now. Why on earth would I want to look like a suffragette (ahem, Anthropologie)?!

judyo423 said...

WOW! I used to only aspire to J. Crew's style but why have they changed. This is the major problem I have with retailers like the Gap, et. al. You think you can count on them for reliability...and then they go BONKERS after some new trend or demographic.

knoxwhirled said...

It's weird... it seems like when I go shopping lately, the cheaper stores, like Target, Old Navy, etc. have some really cute, fun clothes. But then I look at the latest Anthropologie catalog, or these repulsive outfits from JCrew--and I really can't believe how hideously unflattering, even depressing, some of the clothes are. And the styling, as someone earlier mentioned, is beyond ridiculous. Urban Outfitters is the worst offender. I get emails from them (because I like some of their housewares offerings) but am consistently flabbergasted at the repulsive clothes. Even the models don't look good in them--I can't imagine how awful a normal person would look. It's just that much worse when the clothes are overpriced.

In general, fashion has taken the "vintage" look as far as it can go. They are now trying to sell us UGLY trends, like the tapered jeans or that prairie-style dress. Move on.

Bon Vivant said...

I agree, I wrote about this on my blog too for guys. Their stuff looks like it's come out of a Tennessee trailer park. For guys, they are following the trend that is bringing plaid back, which should be a crime. Plaid is a look that belongs in the garage and not in a two page spread in GQ.

Anonymous said...

What amazes me is that the first several looks make the models look pear-shaped or stuffed in the hip area, or short-legged, when reason tells you that can't possibly be true.

The whole point of models is that they are supposed to be able to wear anything. They aren't supposed to have any body characteristics that could result in a false negative, as it were, about the attractiveness of any random garment that you put on them.

So what are the rest of us going to look like in these things?!?

Lana said...

J.Crew's CEO, Mickey Drexler, is known as the one of the big merchandising kings of retail (the short list includes CEOs at a select few other stores, usually more upscale). He's really turned the Company around in the past 5 years or so - these clothes may not appeal to everyone, but the Company's sales growth and same store sales growth are rapidly growing. Coincindentally, the J. Crew of my high school / college years (c. 5 years ago) that offered the simple, preppy clothes was during one of the worst times in the Company's history, financially speaking

Anonymous said...

I've been quite frustrated with J. Crew's "new direction" lately. I still like their cotton and denim basics, which last long and fit well, but their cashmere quality is just not up to par. I wasted hundreds of dollars on their cashmere which all pilled much faster than cashmere from department stores like Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's, at about the same prices. Also J. Crew's vanity sizing has gotten out of hand. Can anyone under a true size 4 even shop there anymore?!

Anonymous said...

C'mon. LookBook looks are not meant to be worn. They're aesthetic inspirations--they are meant to convey a point of view, not to be copied word for word (or garment for garment). The pieces are terrificly constructed and very good value for the money. If you restyle them and mix them in with the rest of your wardrobe, they will serve you well. Thank goodness J. Crew has had some inspiration and stopped offering those BORING boy cotton shirts and same-old khakis. It's the first time I really feel like looking their way. There's gamine in there, and the sixties, and a good does of cold-weather Brit references. They're asking to taken lightly and played with.

Anonymous said...

Fashion is a very simple thing. Fashion trends have phases. Someone mentioned earlier that they dont like the new Anthropologie or J.Crew lines, but they like the lines at cheaper low end stores like target and old navy. Retailers such as anthropologie and J.crew get into fashion at an earlier phase of the trends, this means more risk (higher prices, but also superior quality). Lower end retailers jump on the bandwagon of a trend when it is at a culmination point and is adopted by the masses (no risk, quick and cheap production) . This is why a dress made of aluminum designed by D&G and seen on the runway will cost thousands, yet most people would say that it is ludacris. So simply put, If you dont like the clothes then you obviously are not the intended market for J.Crew. Based on J.Crews latest financials there are plenty of people deciding to shop at J.Crew based on the latest offering. So it must be that the catalog and those styles you hate are a hit with the intended audience.