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Fashion Notes: Incomprehension
by The Kindly One

Can someone please explain all the recent J. Crew love for me? Oprah's recently interviewed creative director Jenna Lyons, Lucky raves over their clothes, and Fashionista regularly fawns over their offerings. I simply don't understand the gushing. Recent visits to J. Crew have only reinforced what I've always thought about the brand, which is that their clothes are uniformly boxy, cut large, and greatly overpriced given the quality of material and construction. So where does the love come from?

I have several theories:

-J. Crew is a major advertiser and source of revenue.

-Fashion editors are familiar with/fond of Jenna Lyons and trying to support their colleague.

-To improve their image, J. Crew have employed Gucci's-Tom-Ford-era media blitz approach to marketing, employing Lyons as a figurehead "personality" to head the brand and lend J. Crew the impression of fashion authority. Subsequently, fashion editors nationwide (and Oprah) have developed a major style crush on Lyons and are unconsciously working that out through gushing, imitation, and general overt crushing.

Of the three, I feel confident it's the last one that's proving true here. While J. Crew advertises widely, it does not advertise on the same level as giants like L'Oreal or the LVMH group. Any publication would hate to lose J. Crew's dollar, but many magazines could not afford to lose LVMH's. And while I'm sure nepotism still has a stronghold on the fashion industry, the above video offers a great example of the kind of blind gushing over Lyons and the brand that I see in an increasing number of media outlets. Just look at the way the video (and Lyons herself) presents her: smiley, friendly, unassuming and approachable, yet with a distinct point-of-view on fashion, with strong opinions, authority, and credibility. So you could have a drink with her and spend the whole time admiring her shoes. Laugh if you will, but by marketing figurehead Lyons as a sort of Everywoman's fashionista (she mixed J. Crew with Miu Miu!), her presence lends the idea of fashion to J. Crew.

And in fairness, the idea of fashion is there, if only as an idea. The store doesn't lack for on-trend military influences, ruffles, and easy layering pieces. The problem I have is the reality of fashion has yet to join up with its ideals. As many on-trend items as the store boasts, and as much as the marketing department bolsters the chain's fashion cred by placing Lyons as a fashion icon in leading, credible publications, the clothes still suck. The ruffles are droopy, the embellishments fade into the clothes rather than acting as visual relief, and the jackets lack enough structure to lay correctly on the body. What's on offer is the equivalent of handing an average teenager a box of pencils and a pad of paper and asking her to draw her dream wardrobe: all the ideas are there without any of the skill, knowledge, or craftsmanship to make those dreams a reality.

So, it's killing me: is all the gushing really over one woman's personality and hi-lo dress sense? Or do people really think they're investing in fashion at J. Crew? What do you think?

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4/26/2010 [7]

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