If you received a copy of J. Crew’s fall catalogue, you might have found yourself asking: “Is this really J. Crew? Mongolian Lamb stoles? Sequined Harem pants, at 650 bucks no less?
Where once the brand was the purveyor of khakis, polo shirts, and other such tweedy looks (founded in 1983 as a mail order catalogue), the brand has now decided it no longer needs to be the distant nephew of the Gap — even if Mickey Drexler, former Gap CEO is now at the helm.
The truth is, we applauded the brand when they became curators of cool: Red Wing boots, Sperry Top Siders, or Barracuda jackets. And just in case we didn’t get just HOW cool they told us they were, they had Katie Holmes and Josh Duhamel model for them too.
Maybe it can all be traced back to that pivotal moment when Michelle Obama decided to wear a J. Crew twin set to the inauguration, and it all went to their head. Or not. Because if not now, when?
After all, J. Crew is a nobody – the “J” stands for nothing and there is no Crew family (the founders were actually named Cinader.) So if you’re a “real nobody” (in the immortal words of Tom Ripley, the social climbing psychopath in “The Talented Mr. Ripley”) then why not reinvent yourself as the times dictate?
They have, and gathered together plenty of support from as many heritage brands as they can dig up at one time. Ever heard of MiH Jeans? Me neither, but apparently they were the IT jean of swinging 60’s London. The point is, that while J. Crew still manages to create affordable, on-trend looks, there’s nothing original about them except for the fact that they’re accessible luxe; or as some prefer, “Masstige” (which sounds like goiter or a swelling of the glands.)
Plenty of others are wishing now they had jumped on the same bandwagon and probably should have a long, long time ago. Hello LL. Bean.
Indeed, shuffling up from behind J. Crew is the venerable LL Bean, who enlisted Alex Carlton from Rogues Gallery to help put some mojo amongst all those olive drab flak jackets and tote bags, with LL Bean “Signature.” So far, I can’t say it’s a thrilling proposition. The catalogue features more or less the same stuff except they do daring things like make the tote bag BLACK (ooh, stop it) or make the infamous Bean Boot in… Black. Yawn. I’ll take a Mongolian lamb stole over that.