By Carlo Versano
J. Crew broke a four-year sales decline and reported a tiny rise in revenue for its latest quarter. CEO James Brett called the turnaround a "watershed moment" for the iconic American retailer trying to pull off a reinvention.
"They're trying to make it a much more democratic brand," GQ fashion reporter Cam Wolf said Wednesday in an interview on Cheddar.
J. Crew, like other retail stalwarts, faced an identity crisis when shopping habits changed and consumers flocked online for discounts.
Under then-president Jenna Lyons (who left the brand last year), the company raised prices, trying to project a high-end preppy, niche image while competitors like H&M and Zara were pushing "fast fashion," or widely accessible, trendy, and cheaper clothes seemingly ripped directly from the runway. J. Crew was also being squeezed by direct-to-consumer upstarts like Everlane, which offers basics like the ones that made J. Crew famous ー only online, and for less.
"It was a really narrow vision of the consumer," Wolf said of the strategy.
That strategy is no more. In an interview this week with the Wall Street Journal, Brett, who joined J. Crew from West Elm in 2017, made it clear that the company is not a fashion house.
"This brand should never show at New York Fashion Week," Brett told the Journal. "We're not Gucci."
As part of its pivot, J. Crew will also extend its women's sizing up to size 24 to better reflect a wider customer demographic.
"It's really important now to have extended sizing," said Wolf. "It's ridiculous these brands aren't considering the full spectrum of consumers."
Brett's strategy also includes buying fabric in bulk ー one of his first acts as CEO was reportedly to order a million yards of cotton to push down prices of staples like t-shirts.
Shoppers can now grab a J. Crew tee for $14.50, half what it cost last year.
For full interview click here.