picture perfect

Of course, how can we talk about J. Crew without mentioning the catalog?  I wait patiently every month to see what new and inspiring pieces J. Crew has dropped in my mailbox.  After speaking with Tracy Crane, who is in Marketing at J. Crew, I was given some firsthand insight into how the catalog is created.  J. Crew’s catalog is essential to their company.  It tells customers every month who J. Crew is and where they are going.  It keeps customers updated on the latest trends and styles.  And most importantly it inspires people to get up, get dressed and have fun.

In an interview for the Wall Street Journal, Jenna Lyons said, “One of the things that I think is unique about what we do is the way that we present the clothes. Sometimes it's a little kooky—sometimes it's too kooky—but it's this idea that you can make it your own . . . We're not saying you have to walk down the street like that, but what we are saying is you can have fun with it.”  The catalog is a great way to convey these ideas, and it often includes new, exciting pieces that can add a bit of pop to your wardrobe and classic pieces that have been remixed and rematched to inspire you with new ideas.

Something so vital to a company does not come together over night.  Months of preparation and work are put into every issue.  The photo shoot often occurs three to four months in advance, depending on the theme and location of the shoot.  When discussing the work environment at J. Crew, Crane said, “Something that differentiates us and makes us a great organization is the open nature of the environment.  People are encouraged to share ideas and new methods, and as a result there are always evolving ideas and designs.”  The catalog is no exception.

The design and production of the catalog is definitely a team effort.  Both Mickey Drexler and Lyons are very involved in the process down to the most minuscule detail.  They both help make layout design decisions and choose what language to use.  While there are a variety of people who specialize in different areas, no one person can claim the final product as theirs.  A core team of seven calls the shots and makes essential decisions, but at the end of the day, the catalog is the product of about 20 different people and their hard work.

The best part about the catalog?  It’s free!  Request a catalog here!  Or view the latest catalog here!

What do you think?  Is it something worth getting excited about?


the code

Every company has "The Code".  No, not the secret code they use to talk about their supervisor behind his or her back and bash rival companies.  All companies have the Code of Ethics and Business Practice, how they run their company, what they value, and what they promise to give to you.  J. Crew is no different.

Although ethics and values may sound ambiguous and boring, they play an extremely important role in a company.  A person with no ethics may be willing to rob a bank, and a company with no values may be willing to rip you off.  J. Crew makes it very clear that they are not out to scam you, nor anybody else associated with their process. 

Sourcing is a huge part of J. Crew’s production.  From Italian leather to Australian wool, textiles and products from around the world end up in J. Crew stores across the country.  J. Crew is very aware that other countries’ employment laws are oftentimes less stringent, and they are very careful not to take advantage of this. 

J. Crew’s Code of Vendor Conduct, which touches on child labor, wages, hours of work, etc., explains the guidelines for their suppliers.  They also audit their suppliers, making sure that everyone is in line with their rules and helping suppliers fix the problem if they are not.

But why go through so much trouble?  Is it for cheaper goods?  No.  It is for the quality and craftsmanship that can only be found certain places.  Recently, Jenna Lyons, President and Executive Creative Director for J. Crew, and some of her staff traveled to Italy.  There they filmed a three-part documentary about why they go to Italy to design shoes, select fabrics, and make suits. 

When asked about why Italy, Lyons said, “At the end of the day there aren’t that many people actually making and taking the same care and quality and actually producing some of these fabrics. . . . That’s why we’re here.  Because we want to preserve and highlight and continue to actually support that kind of production.”

J. Crew also supports a variety of local and international organizations.  To see the organizations they are involved in, click here.

And that is their code.  Quality.  Integrity.  Social Responsibility.

What do you think?  Is it the real deal?

Watch the documentaries here: About a Shoe  
                                                         About a Thread Count  
                                                         About a Print


the art of trendsetting

Like all successful corporations, there is someone at the very top calling the shots, running the business, and making that company what it is.  The U.S. has the president.  Apple has Steve Jobs.  And J. Crew has Mr. Millard “Mickey” Drexler.

From 1995 to 2002, Drexler served as the CEO of The Gap, Inc.  After sales started falling, he was let go and later joined J. Crew in 2003.  Since becoming the CEO of J. Crew, his creativity and dedication have helped increase revenue from $7.6 million in 2003 to $1.7 billion in 2010.  Drexler is a highly personable man who lives and breathes J. Crew.  In an interview with Charlie Rose, he claims that the average customer could call his office and eventually get through to him!  He wants to be attainable--just like his brand.   

Drexler’s vision for J. Crew was to offer fashionable people quality clothing at a reasonable price.  In the Charlie Rose interview, Drexler said of J. Crew, “People want the best quality.  They want best design, and style, and color, and service.  But they don’t [want] to take a mortgage out on a dress or a pair of pants from a designer.”  That is what he strives to give to America with J. Crew.  Affordable high-fashion.

Another highly influential person at J. Crew is Jenna Lyons.  Lyons began working at J. Crew in 1990 as a creative designer, and was most recently promoted to President-Executive Creative Director in July 2010.  "Jenna's Picks" appear in each catalogue and online, making her name very familiar to any J. Crew customer.

Maintaining a brand that is popular across America and around the world is an extremely difficult and time-consuming task.  Both Drexler and Lyons do a wonderful job of achieving this task while continually pushing the company forward and adding their own flavor to the designs.

What do you think Drexler did well when he joined J. Crew?  What do you think he could be doing better?  What article of clothing should Jenna add to her picks?


rules of style

Styles change.  Skinny jeans, sequins, bellbottoms, mullets, ripped jeans, high-waisted pants and oversized bags.  The list could go on.  These are just a few of the items that have been or will be in one day and out the next.  So how does a retail store maintain a certain feel and look while rolling with the ever-changing cycle of style? 

J. Crew's style can be defined as classic, comfortable, and upper-class with a pop of eccentricity and a dash of the East Coast.   They encourage women to ditch the shoulder-padded blazers and shapeless suit pants for a pair of cropped pants and a comfy button up.  Jenna Lyons, J. Crew’s creative director, offered a plethora of pieces of advice for men seeking to put a bit of pop in their style.  She encouraged men to spice things up and said “get dressed, and then change one element.”

J. Crew’s style also somehow manages to transcend time.  Catalogues often feature a “Jackie O. look”, and customers are continually inspired by Jackie’s incredibly sleek and chic style that never seems to grow old.  Although, J. Crew caters to a middle-aged demographic, men and women of all ages shop there.  It is not uncommon to walk into a store and see a daughter, mother, and grandmother all looking for something that will fit their unique style at J. Crew.

Over the past few decades, J. Crew has become a store associated with high-quality clothes that are comfortably classic.  Even though the patterns change and the pants sit lower on the hip, they do a wonderful job of keeping their “look” and appealing to their fashionably minded customers.

How would you define J. Crew’s style?  How has it changed or stayed the same since it first began?

a stitch in time

J. Crew.  It is one of the most popular clothing retailers in America today.  Home to the iconic style of Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama, J. Crew was not always the fashion visionary that it is today.  Yes, like all stores, J. Crew has a beginning.  It has a story.

In 1947, Mitchell Cinader and Saul Charles founded Popular Merchandise Inc.  Operating as Popular Club Plan, Popular Merchandise sold low-price clothing to women through house parties and in-home demonstrations, much like Mary Kay or Pampered Chef parties.  

Eventually, the company was passed on to Cinader's son, Arthur.  In 1983, Arthur Cinader made the decision to begin issuing a catalogue for the company.  The new catalogue clothing line was named J. Crew to give the brand a preppy, upper-class feel.  Much like the Popular Club Plan, J. Crew wanted to provide high-quality, modern clothing at an affordable price.

Throughout the '80s, J. Crew’s sales skyrocketed.  However, the company did not always run so smoothly on the inside.  Both Mitchell and Emily Cinader were difficult to work with, the company had a high employee turnover rate, and in 1987 two important executives left to start their own company, Tweeds. 

While Tweeds found great success, J. Crew began to struggle.  To expand the customer base, the first retail store was opened in March of 1989 in Manhattan.  J. Crew continued to expand into Canada, Japan, and Europe.  However, their current CEO had previously worked in the frozen foods business, and J. Crew's iconic style was suffering.

In 2003 Millard “Mickey” Drexler joined the company as CEO and began pushing quality and service above and beyond previous expectations.  He transformed J. Crew into the retail giant that they are now.  Today, J. Crew has retail stores across the nation and an expanding catalogue and online business. 

What do you think about J. Crew?  Where are they on your top 10 list of retailers?

About Me

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Aspiring writer. J. Crew fanatic.