Eleanor Doughty drops into J. Crew’s London flagship to find out what the fuss is all about:
Give me a J! Give me a C…R…E…W! There’s a new store in town: J. Crew has landed.
The transformation of that building on Regent Street that no one can remember the past tenants of has been endured for over a year. It has been raved about, look books have been passed around and the hype couldn’t be higher. London is hardly shy of welcoming American super brands to premises in W1 – Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria’s Secret have already commandeered primed positions in Mayfair’s coveted hall of fame. It also happily accepts the opening of giant stores on Regent Street – Burberry did it, the ultimate British brand, and now Michelle Obama’s favourite brand is here. I took a New Yorker with me to find out more.
Stepping inside the 17,000 sq ft flagship of all American style, and, a week into its official London presence, J. Crew smells like a new car. A slick, well-oiled, nicely hiding-the-teeny-scratch-on-the-bumper new car; a Range Rover, perhaps. Even the pavement outside it is new and shiny; it smells like money.
Retail staff swish around perfecting two inch turn ups on flannel shirt sleeves, straightening piles of cashmere and ignoring people like me, taking photographs on their iPhones. Brogues and ballet pumps – many with illustrative jewels on the front – are stacked neatly. Silk is very much in abundance.
The rainbow walls of cashmere jumpers are lovely – no more eye-catching than in Gap, or Zara, but less messy. Five points to J. Crew. The markup against existing Regent Street cashmere is a little upsetting. It isn’t, my partner-in-crime and I concluded, aimed at our age group. J. Crew is for Moms with three kids and an SUV, living down Wisteria Lane. It’s for people with disposable incomes, or kids with giant trust funds.
But this side of the Atlantic, I don’t know anyone my age – of any financial backgrounds – who will be heavily investing in J. Crew without a hefty press discount. As much as I’d love to drop £298 on a grey jumper, I won’t be. It was, I won’t lie, the superior grey jumper missing from my life, but for the money I’d sooner invest in a couple from GAP. I’d wager that the quality isn’t much different. Soft is soft, in my experience. It’s still going to be dry clean only, let’s face it.
It is an adult shop. Even for an irregular student such as myself – someone boring by all accounts – some of it is too mature. I’m not ready for that kind of grown up just yet, or at least not every day.
In menswear there are tables of ties, expertly styled mannequins – all done to creative director Jenna Lyons’ exacting standards. In an interview with The Guardian’s Jess Cartner-Morley, Lyons’ style commandments are simple. I’ve translated a few for your pleasure.
‘If you’re wearing a jewelled top, then maybe wear it with a menswear trouser
and a loafer’ – less is more
‘Sometimes you are in the mood for a white shirt – that’s fine’ – yes you can
wear normal clothes if you want
‘Colour isn’t easy for anyone’ – don’t worry, black is always in
‘You can’t go wrong with cashmere’ – need I say any more.
J. Crew is an experience in grown up dressing. It is a Mecca of simplicity, of pieces that never fade. J. Crew is an exercise in investment shopping, if you can justify it. I’m looking for a great white shirt at the moment, and I think I know where I’ll find it.
J. Crew is open at 165 Regent Street and 38 Lambs Conduit Street. Visit jcrew.com for more information.