J. Crew: Too Ambitious To Be Basic, Too Basic To Be Luxe

by MR Magazine Staff

I was on my fourth J. Crew when I noticed it, the small signage that explained the large problem that is bedeviling this company, and many like it. It was on a table of men’s pants on the second floor of the Rockefeller Center store. The pants, khaki chinos ($68), were fine — a little stiff, maybe, but not irredeemable. The sign next to them, though, offered a different value proposition. “The No-Brainers,” it read. This is, at best, patronizing, a way of communicating to your customers that you know better than they do. Grab a pair or two of these pants, and maybe a couple of these shirts (another sign was on that table) and never again devote a moment of critical thought to your wardrobe acquisition! Do you see the problem here? I may be at the extreme end of the yes-brainer approach to shopping, but consumers are better informed and more curious than ever, and taking a stand, even a casual one, against that movement indicates a kind of frailty of imagination. It also suggests a lack of confidence in the idea that people, given a range of options and a functioning occipital lobe, would choose your products. It is the language of discount retailers, a category that J. Crew, for the last decade or so, has tried aggressively to distance itself from. It has done so with help from thoughtful architects of creative vision — Jenna Lyons on the women’s side, Frank Muytjens on men’s wear — and some savvy marketing. For a time in the early 2010s, as the men’s wear boom was beginning and Michelle Obama was visibly supporting the brand, J. Crew thrived by delivering an accessible version of high fashion. Read more at The New York Times.