Wednesday, September 28, 2011

J.Crew In the News: Marissa & UK

There is an article in the Fashion section of Telegraph that is worth checking out (click here to read in its entirety). Quick note, this article came out before the shocking news that Marissa Webb and J.Crew parted ways. (Refer to the "J.Crew Replaces Marissa Webb with Tom Mora" and "Marissa Webb Leaves J.Crew {say it ain't so!}" posts for more on that subject.)
The cutting-edge Crew coming our way
Meet Marissa Webb, head designer of American label J Crew, which launched online in the UK this week.
By Lisa Armstrong
September 16, 2011

Some of my more stressful moments at New York Fashion Week, ..involved thwarted sorties into J Crew for a spot of "retail research". In the old days, pre-tweeting and blogging, you could take your time, breathing in the woody ambience of Mrs O's favourite "keeping it real" label, relishing the knowledge that whatever you bought would be one of a kind back home.

Those days are gone. There is no time for "retail research", or not nearly enough. How considerate, then, of to start shipping to Britain this very week. Finally. Yet more competition to the British high street, which has been resting on its laurels for too long.

Inevitably, now that it's available here, there are rumblings that J Crew has gone off a bit. But you've always had to trawl through its rails. Sizes go up to an American 12, equivalent to a British 16+ since Crew cuts generously (if you're a UK 6 you can sometimes wear size zero. I wouldn't rule that out as an attraction for some customers). Prices are never rock-bottom, but fabrics are decent. It's aspirational on a mass scale, as only American brands seem to be. And although some of the preppiness is too conservative for British tastes, there are consistent gems. This season's patent Mona court shoe in saffron, for instance. I know this because when I meet Marissa Webb, the 38-year-old who heads J Crew's 50-strong design team, she's wearing them.

The softly spoken Webb turns out 12 collections a year for J Crew, plus jewellery, wedding dresses (its first bridal shop opened last year), walking the tight-rope between accessible and envelope-pushing. At one end, J Crew offers T-shirts for £30, at the other, £2,000 sequinned dresses. Isn't competing with the designer market a tough sell?

"Some women are intimidated by designer stores," says Webb. "They know we charge a fair price, and our personal shoppers are all trained to put outfits together." "Each time we ask the same thing. What do women love and how can we refresh it?"

Pencil skirts, minis, capri pants, pea coats and shirts are constantly reworked in sequins, tweed, leather or metallics, with new linings or buttons. "J Crew is about contrasts: boy/girl, slouchy/tailored, basic/luxe - it's the one item you throw on that will take your day outfit out to dinner."

Webb makes it sound simple, but it can't be that easy. She has been engaged for 18 months without finding time to get married (but she'll be wearing a self-designed JCrew wedding gown). She has found time to acquire 400 pairs of shoes - and closet space for all of them.

When we catch up, she'd just shown, although not a full catwalk production, for the first time during New York Fashion Week - to universally rhapsodic reviews. The vibrant colours helped - and some Céline-esque oversized silk-scarf print shirts. "Colour really sells in this current financial climate, especially red." In a low-key week for celebrity sightings (even Peaches Geldof has been thin on the ground), Beyoncé turned up. That's unheard of for a static presentation. How long before J Crew does maternity wear?
Marissa looks so a-ma-zing in the Lexington Blazer. (The new season of Rachel Zoe on Bravo has started and so I will be writing "a-ma-zing" even more now.) She will be missed. Also, I didn't know she is getting married soon. I am definitely curious if she will be wearing J.Crew still.

I love that the article mentions their vibrant colors that sell well like red. I can't get enough of it. Like the Schoolboy Blazer in Wool Flannel (Item 48682; $188.00) in Decadent Red. I can't even find it in a local J.Crew store and it is still hot where I live.

What are your thoughts on the article? Do you think the take on J.Crew is accurate?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Any news yet of the company lucky enough to get Marissa after her departure from J.Crew?

  3. Oh I can't believe they didn't mention that they are not honouring the going exchange rate but over charging us lot in the UK.
    I hope she does wear the same wedding dress after all it was her design.

  4. It's a good thing Marissa was photographed wearing an item that JC actually sells! ;)

  5. Perhaps Marissa stepped away from the company to get married & tend to personal things. I'm also looking to see where she lands.

  6. Arrrgggghhhh I wish I could look half that cute in anything I wear! >:o

  7. Yeah, it's ridiculous the article didn't mention the pricing difference than US website.

    I do love her look and since I have this jacket from few years back all I need is a stripe silk top to copy this look. ;-)

  8. The Gap needs a new designer BADLY. Maybe she's headed over that way.

  9. And now Jenna Lyons shares some decorating tips here:

  10. I'm dying to know where and even if Marissa will return. I really admire her. I hope She's focusing on getting married and I sincerely wish her the best.

    And Yes! I love that jacket! Is it available and in colors?


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