Thursday, July 9, 2009

Interesting Take On J.Crew & the Obama's

The following is a reaction piece to the Politico 44 article mentioned a few days ago (refer to "J.Crew Travels to Moscow" post) from the Washington Post (click here).

An Obama Family Portrait, Courtesy of J.Crew
By Robin Givhan
July 8, 2009

The media have managed to work themselves into a tizzy because the clothing company J.Crew issued a press release in which it noted that Malia and Sasha Obama were wearing clothes bearing its label and that of its children's line, Crewcuts, when the first family arrived in Moscow on Monday.

The press release, which was sent electronically, included photos of the Obama sisters as they walked down the steps from Air Force One with their parents. Their father was making the first stop on an official trip that would also include Italy and Ghana. Those photos are part of a historical record. It seems fitting that history gets the details straight.

The release, issued after inquiries about the clothes, included a description of them and their cost, which seemed to strike some observers as expensive. Malia's trench coat was $298. Sasha's ballet flats were $108. No one has ever pretended that J.Crew was a bargain hunter's store. But it is a less-expensive alternative to high-end designers, for adults and kids alike. It's no Bonpoint, after all. And frankly, it seems reasonable that parents with the means might want to indulge in something extra special for their children to wear when they are going to be zipping around the globe in a whirl of presidential attention, with the Kremlin among the first stops.

The hoopla began when Politico reacted to the press release like no design house had ever stepped up and taken credit for something that a famous person was wearing. These might be children, but fashion houses have been quick to claim credit for everything from Suri Cruise's party dresses to the onesies that the Octo-babies wore home from the hospital. It's always a bit icky when children are thrust into the spotlight, and often it's just downright unseemly. But J.Crew's announcement doesn't seem out of bounds. It's never popular to defend a company, but this time J.Crew seemed to have acted reasonably. It did not commit a grave assault on the Obama girls' privacy.

If photographs of its products are all over wire services, newspapers and television -- and these were -- then the company should be allowed to step up and say, "Yes, we made that." It seems only fair.

It is not as though the photographs were taken surreptitiously with a long lens through a schoolhouse window. The girls were getting off Air Force One with their parents. It was an occasion that was not only open to the press, but a cameras-and-notepads contingent had been shuttled to the airport for the sole purpose of documenting the event. The girls' grandmother, Marian Robinson, was also on the flight, but she exited by the rear steps and mostly avoided having her picture taken by the phalanx of cameras. The girls could have been told to deplane with their grandmother. That, at least, would have indicated that there was a desire for privacy. An attempt to avoid the spotlight. But anyone walking down the front jetway from Air Force One is pretty much saying: Look at me.

And what folks saw was a lovely family portrait. The same kind of portrait that they saw during inauguration. Back then, J.Crew also issued a press release describing the clothes the girls were wearing. In January, people found the details about their specially made coats charming. This was another historical moment. There's nothing wrong with asking: Who made the coats? And the company shouldn't get a lot of grief if it decides to fess up.

What are your thoughts on this article? Disagree or agree with any of the points taken? Has it changed your initial reaction to the news of J.Crew's press release. :)


  1. Interesting how quickly Robin Givhan was sent to clean up jcrew's Heather Lynch McAuliffe (VP of Public Relations)'s mess.

    Bravo jcrew. I fail to see how you're not taking advantage of the Obama's name just like Beanie Babies did.

    God, I hate reruns.

  2. I am sure many will disagree with me, but this article really sums up how I felt after I read the politico article. The first family sometimes likes to wear J Crew, and we cant deny how adorable it looks on them! When they choose to wear the clothing, I dont think there is anything wrong with the Crew letting everyone know where they got their cute duds from, especially since people are going to want to know anyways. I dont think J Crew is taking advantage of the Obama name at all, they are just getting a lot of great opportunities to talk about their product (unless the Portuguese Water Dog community is ALSO taking advantage of the Obama name haha).

    The beanie baby thing was a different story though. They just decided to make two beanie babies that looked exactly like the first girls and coincidentally their names would be Sasha and Malia. Now THAT I can see as sketchy, but J Crew is just fortunate to be benefitting from the Obama fashion sense.

    I think its actually kind of cool. I mean I consider myself pretty put together, and always tell people where things are from if they compliment me on them, but to have the whole country become J Crew Aficionado/as is pretty awesome =)

  3. Michelle Obama wants to be in control of who gets to market her young, private citizens. I'm guessing she doesn't like Beanie Babies to begin with. But who doesn't like snazzy, upbeat, yuppie jcrew? Mama Bear always gets the last word, even if it contradicts what she said to begin with.

    We all know they probably don't pay for their clothing, unless Mr. Obama has decided that day, to print some more money.

    Mickey was a campaign contributor to the Democratic party. I'm guessing the White House and jcrew will lay low on this one. And like most issues, hope that no one will question anything.

  4. I feel it's like this- if I take a photograph, a really awesome photograph, and let's say...Justin Timberlake buys it....yes, JT... and then JT is later in a magazine article where they showcase his home and he's looking all cute and suave and that photograph of mine is hanging on the wall behind him...I'd want everyone to know it was MY PHOTOGRAPH! HE BOUGHT MY PHOTOGRAPH!

    And I'd desperately hope that the magazine gave me credit, but if they didn't you bet I'd be yelling it from the rooftops.

    It's kind of a lame example, but fashion is an art form and I think any design house should be able to step forward and say, "Yippee! That person is wearing mah shiznit!"

    I feel the Beanie babies issue was different than this because they were using the name/image without consent. Michelle willingly clads her darlings in the clothes- so why shouldn't J. Crew take credit where credit is due? Doesn't bother me one bit.

  5. The Obama's can dress their kids anyway they'd like. I think they look darling. It's nice to see tweens polished and preppy.

    I see other actors/actress' and their kids wearing jcrew. How come jcrew doesn't create a splash page and market the heck out of them? It just seems strange how the First Family is getting all the publicity!

  6. J Crew used to the Obama name to profit from it, to generate sales for their crewcut line. It is one thing to publicize MO, the kids are another, IMO the kids should not be used for marketing or publicity purposes.

  7. If the kids are wearing J Crew at a PUBLIC event, why shouldn't J Crew take advantage? All they did was take credit for already manufactured clothing which someone else selected.

    The President and his family pay for their own clothing btw.

  8. I can't deny that Robin Givhan makes some good points, but to me (and perhaps my memory is misleading me here), the press release felt different than the way J Crew has in the past taken credit for outfits worn by the Obamas, and it strikes me as odd that they should take a more aggressive approach when it comes to the Obama girls.

  9. Everyone: Thanks for your great comments. It's interesting to get everyone's take on it- especially since both sides have a point.

    Caitie & Anonymously Yours: I am with you in that the First Daughters looked adorable and fashionable with those outfits!!! :)

    Chloe: Your example of the photograph was both a good one and funny! ;) You always make me laugh. (Incidentally & off topic: I so loved your bottom banner disclaimer on your blog- about punching in the boob- hysterical!) And your point about anyone or any firm, being excited about their item being used is a very good one.

    Pitz: I agree with you that Robin made some excellent points that got me to think about both sides of this story.

  10. The kids look fab, and I could totally see why J. Crew would want to promote them wearing the company's threads.

    However, I'm kind of over all the news coverage of what Michelle and her children are wearing. It just seems way ridiculous to me with all the overseas turmoil and our current crap economy. Every day there's a new story about Obamas and fashion. So frivolous, IMHO.

  11. I agree with anon yours " I see other actors/actress' and their kids wearing jcrew. How come jcrew doesn't create a splash page and market the heck out of them?".
    I think J Crew is looking a little bit ridiculous / insecure trying so hard to point who wears their clothes. I have seen magazines like people mentioning the brands worn by "celebrities" but never the brand itself pointing that out

  12. I think it just smacks of desperation. It is obvious Crewcuts is in trouble--free shipping on all orders for how long now? Perhaps my attitude toward Crewcuts is shared by many. I will spend my money on (sale) JCrew items for me, but I have not spent a single penny on Crewcuts for my kids, nor am I planning to. Sure, some of the things are cute, but I'm not spending that kind of money on clothes my kids will stain, tear, and outgrow fast. I gather in this economy there are others like me out there. Target and TJMaxx is more like it for me.

  13. I agree with everything the article said. Why shouldn't the President or First Lady buy nice clothes for their daughters? There's a recession, so the girls should be dressed in rags to travel to Russia? That argument is so silly. We can't punish people for being able to afford nicer things. They're hardly dressing the girls in Chanel for heaven's sake.

  14. Cliquot, I don't think anyone's blaming the Owe-bama's on dressing their kids in nice clothing. I think JC just jumped the gun and had to put it out right away that they were the ones to dress the kids. That's a bit self serving.

    Also, who died and made Robin Givhens the JC voice? Really though, shame on JC for trying to do a hard-branding, especially not getting permission from the WH. In my opinion, JC is kind of instilling a paparazzi/stalkerish type of demeanor here.

  15. The article gave interesting insight into what happened - they seem to suggest JC was getting press inquiries and merely issued the release to answer questions. If that's the case I think the release wasn't so bad. I kind of find it hard to believe, though, that journalists were calling up JC asking if the girls were wearing their clothes, but I'm not in the media or fashion industry and there's probably a lot that could go on in those arenas that I don't understand.

  16. To all who 'object' to JC riding on the coattails (pun intended) of the FIRST family's fashion sense rather than fawn over other celebrities take a deep breath: They are THE FIRST FAMILY. Not second, third, fourth, or other so called celebrities or reality stars.

    In this economy when opportunity, and HOPE knocks you TAKE IT.

    At least its an American Brand.


  17. An American Brand, MADE IN OTHER COUNTRIES. Check your tags. According to my cardigan, it was MADE IN CHINA.

    Sad to say it, but Hope and Change is all we're going to be left with after he's done with us.

  18. Yes we've had that convo before about made in America via China etc. Same with almost every other US Brand: Apple is designed in California and Assembled in China.

    Its a fact of life and the bottom line unfortunately. America wants cheap.

    BTW it's 'W' who left us without any change in our pockets and 401Ks

  19. I think "W" inherited it from Billy C. But hell, we can point fingers all day long. It's O's problem now, that's all that matters. Can't look back, just forward.

  20. It is ridculous to think that JCrew would not take credit for their product. The FIRST family can wear what they want and endorse whoever they want. This is a free country.
    There is enough blame to go around in regards to the US many troubled situations before 2008.

  21. If I were Michelle Obama, I would make sure my children were wearing clothes that were Made in the USA whenever possible. Too bad JCrew does not have that destinction.


Dear J.Crew Aficionadas & Aficionados: Please feel free (and encouraged) to share your thoughts and opinions. :) However, please note that this is still a personal blog. So comments that are considered inappropriate (e.g. obscene, racist, homophobic, personal attacks, rude, and just plain mean) will be removed.

And now back to J.Crew! :)