Thursday, January 12, 2012

J.Crew Talks About Buttons

Every once in awhile, J.Crew's 770 blog offers really interesting insight into their inner workings. Their "Behind the Seams: All Buttoned Up" post is one of them:
we talked to our trimmings expert, Danielle,
to get the backstory on our beautiful buttons
The process: Our designers bring me their inspiration (usually vintage buttons) and I study their markings and materials to determine which details we can incorporate into our own designs. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, so I can usually figure out right off the bat which manufacturers will be able to put a modern spin on the look we’re going for.

A great resource: Waterbury is among the oldest—if not the oldest—button companies around; they’re actually able to reproduce one-of-a-kind designs they made back in the 1800s, which is pretty amazing. The pieces start out as sheets of brass that are then tooled and molded into the company’s signature items. We use their buttons on all of our peacoats (and the U.S. military just happens to use them for their uniforms too). And, funnily enough, Waterbury is also one of the largest manufacturers of jingle bells. (How’s that for seasonally appropriate?)

Objects of desire: Along with Waterbury’s brass, one of the other materials I love is Corozo. It comes from the tagua nut, which grows in South America (the kind we use comes from Ecuador). It’s typically called vegetable ivory because it looks just like the real thing except it’s more durable, not to mention animal friendly, which we love. And even though the natural finish is beautiful on its own, it also holds other colors wonderfully.

Favorite haunts
: I collect buttons myself, and some of my go-to spots around the area are Junk and Jems in Connecticut and various flea markets in upstate New York. Tender Buttons in New York City also has tons of unique options made of everything from glass to horn. They let you buy by the button instead of having to buy in bulk, which is great for mixing and matching buttons on a jacket or a cardigan.
This mini-interview had a lot of fascinating tidbits. However, I could not help thinking the entire time that J.Crew should also go back and check out their own buttons from 2007!

In the "J.Crew Jackets & Blazers... Still The Same?" post, I briefly talk about how the buttons from the latest collections look a bit cheap compared to similar styles from earlier. For example, the current Double-Cloth Townhouse Trench (Item 49612; $350.00) has gold buttons that are "meh" up close (and feel cheap to the touch). While the Lexington Blazer from 2007 has the most beautiful hand-painted Italian enamel buttons that were custom-colored. {sigh}

Now with all that said, I can see that J.Crew is already getting back on track to including amazing buttons. The Hacking Jacket in Double-Serge Wool (Item 51884; review here) is a great example. The jacket includes adorable pineapple designed enamel buttons. {love!}

What are your thoughts on J.Crew's buttons? Do you think their current button line stands up to its predecessors? If so, please share! :)


  1. Putting a lot of thought into buttons doesn't do much good if they don't stay sewn on. I immediately lost two sleeve buttons from my hacking jacket and never received a response to repeated e-mail requests for replacements :-(

  2. OT: There are some new arrivals online this morning, as well as new items added to the dreaded final sale.

  3. My grandmother used to work in a button factory. I have a massive collection of a gorgeous ones.

  4. Hexicon, LOL, you're so right. I can't even tell you how many times buttons have fallen off J.Crew jackets upon the first wear.

    I also got ignored when asking for replacement buttons...

  5. I washed some newer J Crew button up shirts and my washer was full of buttons (at least 5) that had disenegrated in the middle. They are like donuts now - can't be sewn back on.

  6. Camel peacoat 5+ years old keeps popping buttons like a bad pair of buffet pants. I love the coat too much to get rid of it so I keep fixing it. Finally lost a button last winter with no back up. The coat looks forlorn with that bare spot. Since JC won't offer replacements, any ideas as to where I can pick up some ideal substitutes?

  7. Not J Crew, but I just sent a peacoat back to LL Bean because the buttons had faded and they sewed new ones on and sent it back to me gratis.

    J Crew, I'm just saying....

  8. My initial reaction was exactly that of Hexicon's. I've already lost one of my hacking jacket buttons as well. Guess I shouldn't bother asking for a new one. This is a huge quality issue.

  9. I also had a button on the double serge hacking jacket come off in my hand and I was trying it on for the first time.
    I am a sucker for pretty buttons and I have even decided not to purchase items just because I didn't like the buttons.

  10. So true Hexicon. But for me sadly, that's been a J Crew problem for years. One of the fist things I do when I get anything from J Crew is reinforce the buttons as I know they'll fall off at some point. Even on the "old-school" J Crew stuff I had to do that. So frustrating!

  11. Knock on wood I haven't had that much trouble with buttons except maybe a couple of cardis that lost a button or came with a broken one. I just mentioned the buttons on one of my old-school jackets on my most recent post. The buttons look to be leather embossed with a horse design. Even if nobody else notices, I love that kind of detail!

  12. Yes, other posters are correct...even old school J.Crew items that I bought back in the time frame of 2004--7 would have buttons come of in the dressing room or have one button missing on a cardigan on the sale rack. They used to give extra buttons with most purchases or have one sewn inside the garment. I have a whole basket of J.Crew buttons from items...It is a quality issue that really needs to be addressed!

  13. I'm having the same problem with buttons falling off and would like my tailor to replace them, but I'll have to replace them all as there's no way to find an exact match to those lost. Any ideas for a good online resource for buttons to purchase? Thanks!

  14. I got the Waterbury replacement buttons for the J Crew coat from East Coast Trimming. There were reasonably priced. The number is (212) 221-0050, you can't order online you have to do it over the phone.


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