Browse all

Can J. Crew still be cool?

FW22 collection marks a phase of the brand's revival

Can J. Crew still be cool? FW22 collection marks a phase of the brand's revival

In May 2020, the J. Crew company filed for bankruptcy. The pandemic, resulting in a slump in sales coupled with a period of mounting losses, meant that a disconnect between what the brand was producing and new trends in menswear began to be perceived. J. Crew represented an aspirational uniform conceived in a casual, yet curated preppy style - the aesthetic imagery combined rugby shirts with classic school uniforms - that marked an entire American generation. On its grand heritage and desire to lift itself out of a stalemate comes the task of Brendon Babenzien, co-founder of streetwear brand Noah named to head J.Crew menswear in May 2021: to help the company rise again.

The highly anticipated lookbook for the fall collection has finally been unveiled, and the full collection is already available online and in more than 125 J.Crew stores nationwide. Men's fashion aficionados had already enjoyed Babenzien's touch with the spring collection, captivated by a preppy New England charm accompanied by dark patchwork shirts and turtleneck sweaters. His signature fitted pants are still present, alongside looser styles and acid-washed jeans, under a clear streetwear influence. «It's like J.Crew has a vision again», said men's fashion writer Derek Guy. Below Libby Wadle, who headed the successful Madewell brand for several years and was promoted to the top role at J.Crew Group in the fall of 2020, Babenzien, and womenswear manager Olympia Gayot - their job is to redefine the J.Crew look - the results are promising: as of June, sales were up 8 percent over the same period last year. «J.Crew is increasing traffic», said Gabriella Santaniello, founder of retail consultancy A Line Partners. «Fashion has improved tremendously. It's more relevant to the customers it's targeting, the Millennials and Gen-Z».

@ryancascarano This may not impress menswear aficiondos but I think it’s a great step back in the right direction #jcrew #mensfashion #noahclothing #supreme Chopin Nocturne No. 2 Piano Mono - moshimo sound design

Babenzien's goal was to bridge the gap between older and younger generations, the designer told BoF. «I just want us to go back to a time when we were making the best products possible», he said. That's the J.Crew I grew up with». Maggie Bullock, author of Kingdom of Prep, a forthcoming book about the company, pointed out that bringing J.Crew back to the heights it once reached might be a nearly impossible task. Babenzien thus found himself in the position of having to design a fashion brand- menswear has gone from being a niche to a driving industry considering, in addition, the great appeal of fast fashion-to does something else: to target the mass consumer while maintaining a point of view