Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
J.Crew's much-anticipated Spring 2013 Fashion Week presentation took place yesterday, revealing plenty of the brand's signature preppy-cool pieces put together with the high-low, boy-girl, dressy-casual styling mix Jenna Lyons will forever be known for.
In the past year, however, Lyons has been laying low. Her "picks" are on hiatus from the catalog (which has since been rebranded as the J.Crew Style Guide), and she's no longer appearing in your inbox, replaced instead by Gayle Spannaus, the brand's fashion director and head women's stylist. So, is Gayle the new Jenna?
There are some differences between Lyons and Spannaus. For one thing, Spannaus appears to be a lot more private. A quick Google image search for her turns up (ironically enough) a bunch of images of Jenna Lyons, a bunch of product images from the J.Crew catalog, and one, lonely black-and-white headshot. In J.Crew's emails and site editorial, Spannaus is rendered in a sketch that looks like it was done with colored pencils. There are no photospreads showcasing her family and perfect house. (does she even have a family and a perfect house? The internet does not seem to know.)
Her style is different, too. In an interview with The Cut, Spannaus explains how:
"Our style is similar, but we're so different in proportion that we never look alike. And we definitely have differences. I like drop-crotch pants and would never wear those. And Jenna always says that she doesn't do cute. And I am cute—not in terms of wearing pink or something, you know, but just simply because of our proportions. I'm also slightly riskier than she is. If I were tall I would dress much more classically, but I think when you're smaller, it's more interesting when you take risks.
Many of the styling elements from yesterday's presentation were classic Jenna: the half-tucked shirts, the casually rolled-up sleeves, boyish looks with ultra-feminine heels. But there were a couple cutesy touches in there, too, that might just be Spannaus's influence: The baseball caps, the skinny ties, the dangly plastic earrings. (She also gets credit for those now famous orange-y red lips.)
In a nutshell, Spannaus isn't Jenna 2.0. It doesn't seem like the brand is trying to replace one face with another; more like they're taking the focus off Jenna and her lifestyle and remind the customer that there's more to J.Crew than "It Girl" cool. As Spannaus says, the J.Crew customer isn't just one girl: "She should be everybody. Literally from like, a baby to a 90-year-old. We don't think, Oh, she's a 40-year-old woman who drives this car and wears this watch. We don't think like that at all."
· Fashion Week Spotlight: The Cult of Jenna Lyons Is Alive and Well at J. Crew [Racked]
· 8 Fashion Brands Creating the Best Online Content [Racked]
· J.Crew's Spring 13 Presentation Is Going To Make You Want To Skip Fall Altogether [Racked]