Friday, August 28, 2009

Musings on J. Crew...

I get a new J. Crew catalog every week in the mail. I won't lie. I love it. Every page is exciting, different, fresh and amazing. There's a coolness to J. Crew, once a company whose purpose was to provide moms everywhere with classic essentials, it has morphed into the definition of "street chic" and "effortless cool." We haven't seen a transformation of this magnitude since Christopher Bailey took the reigns at Burberry in 2002 taking it from uptight British countryside wardrobe staples to an international symbol of luxury and style. They tell us that it's ok to wear Chuck Taylor's and Jack Purcell's with business suits. They encourage us to wear argyle socks with peep toe heels (one of my favorites!) and destroyed denim.

The men are attainable and ubercool. The perfect mix of handsome: a little scruffy yet impeccably put together. Every woman wants to wake up, throw on her Boyfriend jeans and a tissue tee and walk into her breezy white kitchen to find him making scrambled eggs in a cast iron skillet. The women have that perfect look: effortless and comfortable, yet fabulous and chic. She takes fashion risks, but never goes too far. She's a real girl, too, often having crow's feet or a gap between her two front teeth. She always looks pulled together, but never looks as though she tries too hard.

So why does this feeling go away when I open those glass double doors and walk into the giant cedar closet that is a J. Crew store? I started thinking about this recently because I need to buy a dress for a wedding and, as usual, I hate everything that I was considering wearing. I don't actually hate it, I just hate it for this particular event. I yearn to look like one of those women in the catalog: Audrey Hepburn-esque, but with an edge.

Every time, I tear through the store like a hurricane, desperately seeking the fabulousness that gets delivered to my home weekly, but my heart drops. I don't see it. It's not there. It's never there. Sure, almost everything I see in the catalog is there...but it's not there. The catalog is fantasy and the store is reality. The catalog is the amazing appetizer that leads up to a mediocre dinner, the hilarious trailer at the movies before the C- film I just paid thirteen dollars (plus Sour Patch Kids) to see, the first date, the best book in a series, a discontinued lipstick whose replacement color is never as good.

It's so disappointing to me that a company whose product, styling, sense of humor and uniqueness fails to capture my heart, my attention and my dollars in the same way that their catalog does. Have merchants become so lazy in their roles that they have lost the ability to create or is it the corporate side of retail that puts so much value on a perfectly folded stack of sweaters that there is no time left for creativity. I wonder...

Anyway, I'm off to order the same dress in three sizes, five different jewelry options and two pairs of shoes from my fabulous J. Crew catalog. This would be so much easier if I was as inspired inside the store...

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