I recently entered the golden gates of J. Crew [insert confusion, head scratch, wail, or “what the heck” sentiment here] and made a purchase for the very first time. On its surface, J. Crew has always been pretty people selling pretty items that were pretty expensive for the struggling college student I was. While visiting Orlando’s Mall at Millennia, I decided to take a peek to see what I was missing… and I was really missing a lot.
To understand why I strayed away for so long, I thought back to my interpretation of the brand. J. Crew always struck me as a prep cult classic. Think WASPy girls on their way to Nantucket who hold their noses high and only look down to take an Instagram photos of their Sperry Topsiders (I actually love these, but you get the picture). My perception became questionable and soon shattered to nothing because of one person. “Who,” you ask? None other than quintessential fashion trailblazer Jenna Lyons.
I didn’t truly get curious about J. Crew until I watched Lyons on HBO’s “Girls,” playing the role of Hannah Horvath’s fierce boss at GQ. Her Miranda Priestly of “Devil Wears Prada” dryness was sharp and I had known little of her backstory. I later was impressed to find how Lyons worked her way up to be president and creative director of J. Crew, where she began as an assistant designing stale styles for the crotchety croquet playing type at 21 years-old. Once Millard Drexler, the man that turned Gap into a goldmine, got his hands on J. Crew and met Jenna, VP of women’s design at the time, she was soon calling all of the shots.
While passing the store, I knew it was time to revisit the style caster’s wonderland. Parting Nantucket to a New York chic, J. Crew had a mixture of feminine lightness accompanied by Lyons’ androgynous appeal. A brand that was once a polo shirt’s biggest supporter was now being worn by fashion’s highest ranking curator, Anna Wintour. Lyons ingeniously and carefully crafted the brand down to every last seam, collecting influencers as trophies to credit the brand’s new embodiment. J. Crew also has strong community ties with efforts in Teach for America, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. A brand with heart is a brand for me.
The store was holding a MASSIVE sale, so you can imagine how ebullient I was after scoring a delicately embroidered pink neon and white sundress.
As a new J. Crewian, I’ve sometimes felt bogged down by the mass amounts of nautical striped tops in the store, but once you get to Emerald City there are sure to be gems — especially in jewelry section. Here’s my J. Crew wish list: