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Yesterday Forbes writer Chris DeRose published a personal essay titled "How to Get J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler on the Phone." In it, he relates a customer-service anecdote in which his wife—a stay-at-home-mom for the past 15 years—fired off an angry email directed to Drexler and sent to J.Crew's generic customer service address. "I am so disheartened and disappointed that you are leaving your core values and styling and abandoning your loyal customers," she wrote. "I would have thought you had learned your lesson at the Gap!! Why mess with these iconic brands and change them into something they're not?"
Two things that happen next are of interest. First, Drexler actually called DeRose's wife to hear directly from her what she liked and didn't like about the line (which, while unconventional, isn't so surprising. Drexler is an unapologetic micro-manager of legendary status). And second, he admitted J.Crew may be going too far in some of their styling. Which is a bit of a surprise.
Mrs. DeRose's perspective is not one we come across too frequently in world of fashion journalism. The fashion media applauds the excitement Jenna Lyons has injected into the brand with her distinctive preppy-chic point of view, and Racked readers, at least, tend to agree with the media. J.Crew's New York Fashion Week shows are by far the most popular shows of each runway season on Racked.
But Mrs. DeRose has an interesting point. If, say, you're a stay-at-home mom with a couple of teenagers to look after (and, for sake of argument, you don't happen to be Michelle Obama), print mixing and pops of color may not be your thing. J.Crew used to have something to offer that customer. Do they still? Judging from the brand's current homepage, which pictures a grid of several windblown models in styles like peter pan collars, pajama tops, printed pants, and office-ready dress shorts, maybe not.
According to DeRose's account of the call, J. Crew's leadership team (company president Libby Wadle was also on the line; Lyons would have been, but was on vacation) asked what his wife liked and didn't like about the company's styling, as well as what was missing in her opinion. They listened "intently and respectfully" to her answers.
And DeRose writes that though Drexler stood his ground on the need to continue evolving the company's style, he also admitted that "in the company's desire to embrace change, the team also shared the view that some of the styling had perhaps strayed too far from the classics and brand messaging for which J. Crew had become known." Drexler followed up later with an email. "We are on it for sure," he wrote to Mrs. DeRose. "I hope you see a difference this fall."
We're curious: What do you think about J.Crew's current styling? Has it strayed too far from classics into the realm of trendy fashion? Are the prices still in line with what you expect from J.Crew? Speak your minds in the comments.