While avocado toast and rosé wine are competing for Instagram’s Most Famous, J.Crew remains in the throes of a less-than-favorable transition.
Sales are still down, 175 layoffs were reported, and Tom Mora, former head of women’s design, is being replaced. A flurry of Internet gossip followed — some resurfaced, some current, none worth linking because we’ve all been to high school.
It’s true that you cannot argue with numbers. Data trumps speculation; money talks; profit is — or at least has previously been — tangible success. And when it comes to J.Crew’s current state of financials, too much fashion is the cause for blame. Round these parts, however, that makes zero sense. J.Crew has helped established this industry as a democratic place: Don’t live in New York? Paris? Milan? So what? You can — and will be — a part of this, too!
Like the bloggers who challenged front row politics, Jenna Lyons trail-blazed a path that said:
Just because it’s not designer doesn’t mean it isn’t cool.
Just because it’s not fancy doesn’t mean it’s not black tie.
Just because a brand is known for its khakis and sensible blazers doesn’t mean its customer can’t be curious about fashion.
For someone like me — a fan of the basics, wary of trends, unwilling to spend on a plain white tee but happy to invest in something I know I’ll wear for a long time, J.Crew became a dependable destination to expand horizons without discomfort while same discovering something new.
Had J.Crew never made a pair of high waist, cropped and flared white jeans, I never would have bought them, loved them and declared them a fixture of my summer wardrobe. They cost me $150, so were they cheap? No. But they also weren’t made cheaply — which is important. And in comparison to the designer iterations that still linger on shelves in the upper echelons of retail, they’re a steal. Not a knockoff, not unethical, not not one meal-swap of instant noodles, but worth it, because they let me participate.
Sophie Milrom once wrote for this site that if Kanye West is an esoteric, complex rapper, then Drake, who has arguably seen more commercial success, is the relatable, low common denominator of the same vertical. In that way, J.Crew is not unlike Drake. It provides an entry point for all of us. It makes it consumable.
I understand the panic that comes with a last minute event that calls for a simple dress, without neon feathers, that was made with integrity, that won’t cost dignity, or dinner, if not a month’s rent.
And I understand the very real frustration that erupts when your sartorial go-to fails you.
But I also understand fashion. Or at least I think I do. And I know that in order to keep the playing fields even, to keep the sweet spot that bridges the fast fashion oligarchs and high fashion pretension, we need J.Crew. So give Drexler –and Lyons — a break, would you? Buy a damn sequin.