SNOW: coming soon

It’s hard to believe that it’s already the middle of October, which means that Thanksgiving and Christmas are fast approaching.  But indeed the cold weather and snowy slopes are on their way.  Will you be ready?  J. Crew is.

Introducing Authier (pronounced o-tee-ay), an Italian ski line that has partnered with J. Crew to produce some top-of-the-line and absolutely sick ski gear.  Once again, J. Crew has found a ­­­­company to partner with that perfectly meshes fashion and function.

Authier was founded in 1910 by John Authier and was one of the first companies to offer quality wooden skis.   Based in Biรจre, Switzerland, Authier knows all about cold weather, and their military standard insulation will be sure to keep you warm this winter.  And if skiing just isn’t your thing, feel free to bundle up in the lodge in one of their cozy sweaters.

We all know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but on the slopes, that just doesn’t happen.  Hopefully, Authier will be able to help you out with that.



dressed for the test

August 2011 catalog cover
featuring the No. 2 pencil skirt
Bring a healthy snack, a calculator, and the (in)famous No. 2 pencil.  Get plenty of sleep, and don’t forget to dress for success.  At one point or another, everyone has heard the spiel about how to prepare for the dreaded standardized test.  Unfortunately, J. Crew can’t help you with getting sleep or good test scores, but they can help you dress for the test.

Introducing the No. 2 pencil skirt from this fall’s new lineup.  It comes in a wide variety of great fall colors including my favorite . . . yellow.  Pair it with a crisp button-up or slouchy sweater (or both!), and you’ll look as sharp as a pencil on your fabulously-dressed way to success.


when in russia

It was an average day.  I came home from school, dropped my bag on the floor, and saw the stack of mail on the counter.  I spotted the corner of the J. Crew catalog lying at the bottom of the stack and pulled it out.  I gasped.  The cover was stunning and unlike anything they had ever done before!

The cover shows ballerinas, dressed in typical ballerina attire plus an Italian cashmere sweater, posing underneath a portrait of Leonid Yakobson (1904-1975), Soviet dancer, choreographer, and ballet master at the Mariinsky Theatre.  Along with Mr. Yakobson, the company has produced other big names such as Anna Pavlova and Mikhail Baryshnikov and has traveled around the world including a recent appearance at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC.  The Mariinsky Theatre was established in 1860 by Catherine the Great and has seen some of the greatest Russian ballet performances, including the world premier of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

The September 2011 catalog was photographed at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  Ballerinas from the Mariinsky ballet school posed alongside the usual models, showing off their elegance and newfound love for J. Crew cashmere.  Each photograph beautifully captures the ballerinas’ simple grace and exact precision, along with the grace and precision of J. Crew’s sweaters, a must-have for this fall.  Plus, it reignited my childhood desire to become a ballerina.


steals and deals: a crime of fashion

It’s summertime.  It’s hot, like really hot.  You have the day off and you’re debating what to do.  You don’t want to stay home, but the pool will be too crowded and you’ve already seen all of the good summer movies.  Shopping sounds fun, but you don’t want to break the bank.  Thankfully, I have the perfect solution.  A solution that my mom, sister, and I accidentally stumbled across when we were in Indianapolis buying a car.  But don’t worry.  It has nothing to do with cars.

Lacoste Beam Metallic Flats
Carmel Consignment.  It is a fabulous little shop filled with high-quality brands and amazing deals.  We spotted the store when we stopped for lunch just outside of Indianapolis and decided to poke our heads in just to kill some time.  Instead we ended up spending hours browsing their endless racks of great clothing and walked away with bags of deals.  They had everything for both men and women from tops and bottoms to bags, jewelry, and shoes.

Pastel Petal Perfect Shirt
Two of my favorite pieces were the adorable Fiji Floral sweater from J. Crew, which retailed at $88, and the Pastel Petal Perfect Shirt from J. Crew, which retailed at $80.  Both were in good as new condition, and I bought both for under $10.  But my find of the day was a pair of Lacoste Beam Metallic flats.  I had just finished stating that I never bought used shoes unless they were really awesome when I turned around and spotted them.  Their retail price was around $50, and I purchased them for $10.

Fiji Floral Sweater
So if you’re in or around Indianapolis, make sure to stop in and take a look around.  It will be well worth your time and money.  If you’re not from around here, take the time to discover a consignment shop near you.  Finding that cute new piece for your wardrobe is always fun, but finding it for five dollars . . . well you almost feel like it’s a crime.


first name basis

This blog started as a project for one of my journalism classes.  While doing research for that project, I came across a Charlie Rose interview with J. Crew’s CEO, Millard “Mickey” Drexler.  In that interview Mr. Drexler talked about his conviction that even the CEO of a company should be accessible.  If a customer had an issue with a product, he should be able to talk to someone who actually had the ability to deal with the situation.

Of course, I have never been one to take people for their word.  So I sent an email to “Contact Us” at J. Crew to put Mr. Drexler’s promise to the test and to see if I could ask him some questions for my project.  I explained who I was, the project, and asked him some questions for the blog.  Four days later, when I received an email in response, I was ecstatic.

“Hi Summer – received your email from Contact Us – thanks much for your interest – appreciate you being a “J.Crew fanatic and dedicated customer” – would love to help out – please give me a number where I or my partner Tracy Crane can give you a call to find out a little bit more about the project –


The J. Crew Men's Shop
To make a long story short, we exchanged a few more emails, and he set me up with a phone interview with Tracy Crane, who oversees Marketing Communications and Customer Experience at J. Crew.  I had a blast talking to her.  We discussed the making of the catalog, our favorite J. Crew pieces, and how she landed the job at J. Crew.  But it was everyone’s personable attitudes and genuine desire to help that really made an impact on me.

Employee at a J. Crew store
There are many things that make a company great, leadership, focus, and money, to name a few.  But leadership, focus, and money will only get you so far if you fail at connecting with your customers and making them feel like one of a kind.  All of the people I have dealt with at J. Crew (through this experience and others) have always been extremely friendly and have focused on my specific needs.  Even though I’ve never met them, we’re always on a first name basis.


get your chambray on

There are some things in life that are just heavenly.  Manna, angels, stars, and, of course, chambray, to name a few.  Perhaps you scoff at that statement, but I believe that we will be wearing white chambray robes when we get to heaven.  I finally became the proud owner of a chambray shirt from J. Crew after my sister gave me one for my birthday, and it is the most incredible shirt I have ever owned.  I wore it four days in a row.  I have good reasons for doing so.

First, I wore it four days in a row because it is incredibly versatile.  It has a very classy yet comfortably relaxed look, so it is easy to dress up or dress down.  You can wear one tucked into a high-waisted skirt or with some shorts and cute sandals.  Plus, chambray is used in everything from skirts and pants to ties and shoes.

Second, I wear my chambray shirt all the time, because it is comfortable.  Some people are willing to sacrifice a bit of comfort for style.  But if you want to make a statement without suffering the whole day, chambray is the way to go.

Chambray is made by tightly weaving together white yarn vertically and oftentimes blue yarn horizontally.  This method gives it the soft sheen and slightly worn appearance.  It was first developed in Cambrai, France in 1595 and has been used in clothing for centuries.  It was the fabric of choice for the US Navy uniforms from 1901 through WWII, and the nautical influences in fashion are making it the fabric of choice today.

J. Crew is having a lot of fun with the popularity of chambray.  Shirts, shorts, dresses, skirts, ties, shoes, and hats: they offer it all in chambray.  They have the “I heart chambray” shirt and the stylish Tretorn sneakers in chambray.  Their chambray dress is adorable.  And you can’t forget my favorite piece from J. Crew’s sister store, Madewell, the chambray trousers in pink oyster.

Like I said.  Chambray robes in heaven.  Can’t get much better than that.



Over the past month, we have learned a lot about J. Crew.  But each article was about a completely different facet of J. Crew, and they cannot define J. Crew by themselves.  In order to see and understand the public image of J. Crew that is portrayed, we must look at each of these areas together, as a whole.

J. Crew started out as a small mom-and-pop store.  They came to your home to sell clothes, and they did a very good job.  However, the company changed hands a few times and eventually ended up under the direction of a man who had been in the frozen food business.

Enter Mickey Drexler, J. Crew’s passionate CEO who transformed J. Crew from the small struggling clothing shop to the widespread popular retailer that we know today.  His eye for fashion and skill for turning companies around combined with President and Executive Creative Director Jenna Lyons’s bold moves and creative style have helped develop J. Crew’s style into what it is today.

J. Crew has always had a relaxed and preppy style, but Drexler and Lyons have encouraged the growth and evolution of J. Crew.  While maintaining the original vision that Mitchell Cinader had for the company, they have incorporated a bit of their own flair.  With the introduction of Madewell, J. Crew’s sister store targeted at younger women, and J. Crew COLLECTION, a collection of limited-edition pieces that are essential to every chic closet, Drexler and Lyons have left their own mark on the company.

Each month, J. Crew pulls everything together in their catalog.  With a little bit of hard work and a lot of teamwork, the J. Crew team puts together a catalog that displays the current season’s pieces, beloved classics, and their creativity.  Fun combinations and interesting ideas jump off the page, inspiring customers everywhere.

Through all of this, J. Crew maintains a strict sourcing policy to ensure the safety and fair treatment of their employees and suppliers around the globe.  This is no easy task, since J. Crew uses the finest materials and textiles from 20 different companies. 

Through combining all of these efforts, J. Crew produces quality clothing with a fun sense of style.  Kudos to J. Crew. 

What are your favorite clothing stores?  Anything similar to J. Crew?


picture perfect

Of course, how can we talk about J. Crew without mentioning the catalog?  I wait patiently every month to see what new and inspiring pieces J. Crew has dropped in my mailbox.  After speaking with Tracy Crane, who is in Marketing at J. Crew, I was given some firsthand insight into how the catalog is created.  J. Crew’s catalog is essential to their company.  It tells customers every month who J. Crew is and where they are going.  It keeps customers updated on the latest trends and styles.  And most importantly it inspires people to get up, get dressed and have fun.

In an interview for the Wall Street Journal, Jenna Lyons said, “One of the things that I think is unique about what we do is the way that we present the clothes. Sometimes it's a little kooky—sometimes it's too kooky—but it's this idea that you can make it your own . . . We're not saying you have to walk down the street like that, but what we are saying is you can have fun with it.”  The catalog is a great way to convey these ideas, and it often includes new, exciting pieces that can add a bit of pop to your wardrobe and classic pieces that have been remixed and rematched to inspire you with new ideas.

Something so vital to a company does not come together over night.  Months of preparation and work are put into every issue.  The photo shoot often occurs three to four months in advance, depending on the theme and location of the shoot.  When discussing the work environment at J. Crew, Crane said, “Something that differentiates us and makes us a great organization is the open nature of the environment.  People are encouraged to share ideas and new methods, and as a result there are always evolving ideas and designs.”  The catalog is no exception.

The design and production of the catalog is definitely a team effort.  Both Mickey Drexler and Lyons are very involved in the process down to the most minuscule detail.  They both help make layout design decisions and choose what language to use.  While there are a variety of people who specialize in different areas, no one person can claim the final product as theirs.  A core team of seven calls the shots and makes essential decisions, but at the end of the day, the catalog is the product of about 20 different people and their hard work.

The best part about the catalog?  It’s free!  Request a catalog here!  Or view the latest catalog here!

What do you think?  Is it something worth getting excited about?


the code

Every company has "The Code".  No, not the secret code they use to talk about their supervisor behind his or her back and bash rival companies.  All companies have the Code of Ethics and Business Practice, how they run their company, what they value, and what they promise to give to you.  J. Crew is no different.

Although ethics and values may sound ambiguous and boring, they play an extremely important role in a company.  A person with no ethics may be willing to rob a bank, and a company with no values may be willing to rip you off.  J. Crew makes it very clear that they are not out to scam you, nor anybody else associated with their process. 

Sourcing is a huge part of J. Crew’s production.  From Italian leather to Australian wool, textiles and products from around the world end up in J. Crew stores across the country.  J. Crew is very aware that other countries’ employment laws are oftentimes less stringent, and they are very careful not to take advantage of this. 

J. Crew’s Code of Vendor Conduct, which touches on child labor, wages, hours of work, etc., explains the guidelines for their suppliers.  They also audit their suppliers, making sure that everyone is in line with their rules and helping suppliers fix the problem if they are not.

But why go through so much trouble?  Is it for cheaper goods?  No.  It is for the quality and craftsmanship that can only be found certain places.  Recently, Jenna Lyons, President and Executive Creative Director for J. Crew, and some of her staff traveled to Italy.  There they filmed a three-part documentary about why they go to Italy to design shoes, select fabrics, and make suits. 

When asked about why Italy, Lyons said, “At the end of the day there aren’t that many people actually making and taking the same care and quality and actually producing some of these fabrics. . . . That’s why we’re here.  Because we want to preserve and highlight and continue to actually support that kind of production.”

J. Crew also supports a variety of local and international organizations.  To see the organizations they are involved in, click here.

And that is their code.  Quality.  Integrity.  Social Responsibility.

What do you think?  Is it the real deal?

Watch the documentaries here: About a Shoe  
                                                         About a Thread Count  
                                                         About a Print


the art of trendsetting

Like all successful corporations, there is someone at the very top calling the shots, running the business, and making that company what it is.  The U.S. has the president.  Apple has Steve Jobs.  And J. Crew has Mr. Millard “Mickey” Drexler.

From 1995 to 2002, Drexler served as the CEO of The Gap, Inc.  After sales started falling, he was let go and later joined J. Crew in 2003.  Since becoming the CEO of J. Crew, his creativity and dedication have helped increase revenue from $7.6 million in 2003 to $1.7 billion in 2010.  Drexler is a highly personable man who lives and breathes J. Crew.  In an interview with Charlie Rose, he claims that the average customer could call his office and eventually get through to him!  He wants to be attainable--just like his brand.   

Drexler’s vision for J. Crew was to offer fashionable people quality clothing at a reasonable price.  In the Charlie Rose interview, Drexler said of J. Crew, “People want the best quality.  They want best design, and style, and color, and service.  But they don’t [want] to take a mortgage out on a dress or a pair of pants from a designer.”  That is what he strives to give to America with J. Crew.  Affordable high-fashion.

Another highly influential person at J. Crew is Jenna Lyons.  Lyons began working at J. Crew in 1990 as a creative designer, and was most recently promoted to President-Executive Creative Director in July 2010.  "Jenna's Picks" appear in each catalogue and online, making her name very familiar to any J. Crew customer.

Maintaining a brand that is popular across America and around the world is an extremely difficult and time-consuming task.  Both Drexler and Lyons do a wonderful job of achieving this task while continually pushing the company forward and adding their own flavor to the designs.

What do you think Drexler did well when he joined J. Crew?  What do you think he could be doing better?  What article of clothing should Jenna add to her picks?


rules of style

Styles change.  Skinny jeans, sequins, bellbottoms, mullets, ripped jeans, high-waisted pants and oversized bags.  The list could go on.  These are just a few of the items that have been or will be in one day and out the next.  So how does a retail store maintain a certain feel and look while rolling with the ever-changing cycle of style? 

J. Crew's style can be defined as classic, comfortable, and upper-class with a pop of eccentricity and a dash of the East Coast.   They encourage women to ditch the shoulder-padded blazers and shapeless suit pants for a pair of cropped pants and a comfy button up.  Jenna Lyons, J. Crew’s creative director, offered a plethora of pieces of advice for men seeking to put a bit of pop in their style.  She encouraged men to spice things up and said “get dressed, and then change one element.”

J. Crew’s style also somehow manages to transcend time.  Catalogues often feature a “Jackie O. look”, and customers are continually inspired by Jackie’s incredibly sleek and chic style that never seems to grow old.  Although, J. Crew caters to a middle-aged demographic, men and women of all ages shop there.  It is not uncommon to walk into a store and see a daughter, mother, and grandmother all looking for something that will fit their unique style at J. Crew.

Over the past few decades, J. Crew has become a store associated with high-quality clothes that are comfortably classic.  Even though the patterns change and the pants sit lower on the hip, they do a wonderful job of keeping their “look” and appealing to their fashionably minded customers.

How would you define J. Crew’s style?  How has it changed or stayed the same since it first began?

a stitch in time

J. Crew.  It is one of the most popular clothing retailers in America today.  Home to the iconic style of Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama, J. Crew was not always the fashion visionary that it is today.  Yes, like all stores, J. Crew has a beginning.  It has a story.

In 1947, Mitchell Cinader and Saul Charles founded Popular Merchandise Inc.  Operating as Popular Club Plan, Popular Merchandise sold low-price clothing to women through house parties and in-home demonstrations, much like Mary Kay or Pampered Chef parties.  

Eventually, the company was passed on to Cinader's son, Arthur.  In 1983, Arthur Cinader made the decision to begin issuing a catalogue for the company.  The new catalogue clothing line was named J. Crew to give the brand a preppy, upper-class feel.  Much like the Popular Club Plan, J. Crew wanted to provide high-quality, modern clothing at an affordable price.

Throughout the '80s, J. Crew’s sales skyrocketed.  However, the company did not always run so smoothly on the inside.  Both Mitchell and Emily Cinader were difficult to work with, the company had a high employee turnover rate, and in 1987 two important executives left to start their own company, Tweeds. 

While Tweeds found great success, J. Crew began to struggle.  To expand the customer base, the first retail store was opened in March of 1989 in Manhattan.  J. Crew continued to expand into Canada, Japan, and Europe.  However, their current CEO had previously worked in the frozen foods business, and J. Crew's iconic style was suffering.

In 2003 Millard “Mickey” Drexler joined the company as CEO and began pushing quality and service above and beyond previous expectations.  He transformed J. Crew into the retail giant that they are now.  Today, J. Crew has retail stores across the nation and an expanding catalogue and online business. 

What do you think about J. Crew?  Where are they on your top 10 list of retailers?

About Me

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Aspiring writer. J. Crew fanatic.