The Campaign to Revive J.Crew

Mar 31, 2015


Last week, I posted about J.Crew’s faltering sales and their attempts to reinvigorate the once-beloved brand.   The retailer’s executives seem to think that style is the brand’s only critical flaw.  However, the primary concern of the J.Crew shoppers who read this blog–many of whom were once brand loyalists–is not style, but quality and value.

For example, I put on my Collection Secretary Blouse this weekend and discovered two noticeable holes.  I wore the blouse, which costs $188 and purports to be made from “the finest silk,” only twice and cleaned it once before it died a premature death.  To say that I felt robbed would be an understatement.

Middle-income, working women are the foundation of the J.Crew pyramid.  We want a brand that creates stylish, good-quality clothing that we can wear for several seasons before it gives up the ghost.  We’re tired of buying poorly made pieces that need to be discounted to “40-percent-off sale price” before we feel like they’re a good value.  J.Crew is a business, so of course it wants to increase profits.  But when they obliterate quality construction to lower costs, they cut themselves off at the knees by turning off loyal shoppers.

Almost every reader who shopped at J.Crew in the 2006-2010 era talks about how much better the quality was then.  Their evidence is anecdotal, but if a buyer feels that their seven-year-old suit is better made than the one they bought last year, they’re going to shop elsewhere.  If we want “fast fashion,” we’ll shop at H&M.

J.Crew was once a closet staple with loyal devotees, and it could be again.  So how do we spread the message that middle-income women want brands to go back to selling chic pieces at reasonable prices without sacrificing quality?

A reader on last week’s post suggested a social media campaign to spread the word about J.Crew shopper’s concerns.  So I created a hashtag, #reviveJCrew, and the graphic at the top of this post to go with it.  Maybe the campaign goes nowhere, but maybe a little pressure from the brand’s main customer base will get our message across.

If you want to promote the campaign on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, use the hashtag/image and make a brief statement about what they can do to resuscitate the brand and earn your loyalty.  For example, “Bring back fabrics that aren’t see through! #reviveJCrew” or “When did lined pants and dresses become unicorns? #reviveJCrew.”

P.S.: This piece from The Hairpin about J.Crew’s unrealistic costs and aesthetic is tragically funny because it’s so accurate.

Career Style, Discussions

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  1. Lauren says:

    I really love this hashtag/movement. There’s a large market out there for high quality, affordable staples and other companies are quickly surpassing J.Crew in what used to be there sweet spot. I only buy from them now when items are drastically discounted and under the expectation that the item likely won’t last long. I wear a Merino Tippi Sweater pretty much 2x/week… but only buy them once they’re marked down from $80 to $20-$30 because I’ve found mine basically disintegrating after 6 months. I would pay $80 if I knew they would last years, and I would own one in every shade. I hope J.Crew listens and gets its act together!

    • R says:

      I bought two tippi sweaters in the same season in the same size, but the sizing was inconsistent – something I expect from Old Navy, not J Crew. One of them got holes after like 2 wears (the other held up well though). Don’t get my started on the shredded lining and buttons that constantly pop off on a winter coat I purchased two years ago. It’s a mess. I had a coat from Target that held up SO much better.

      • Tiffany says:

        DITTO. I’ve bought 4 Tippi sweaters, all in size “small” and all are drastically different sizes.

        • Belle says:

          Sing it. I have three suit skirts, all the same style, all from the same season, none are the same measurements.

  2. DCQ says:

    Hear, hear. It’s funny how my blazer from 2003 is in much better condition than the one I bought last year. Except not.

  3. Noelle says:

    Same goes for the jewelery. I bought that beautiful necklace with the leafs that you posted back in December and it broke twice. The first time my husband was able to fix it (this was 2 days after I first wore it). Now its broken and sitting in my jewelery box….

  4. MK says:

    Agreed. I would very much like to feel confident that a tee I buy will not have holes in a couple of weeks. I would also like to see fewer styles designed solely for models and more of an emphasis on reasonably affordable, quality pieces. I’ll definitely pay more for a beautifully designed, high-quality blouse, but when I say more, I’m thinking a blouse at $90, not $190. I love clothes and spend a reasonable amount on my wardrobe, but I can’t spend $400 a season on blouses alone. Also, it would be really nice to see a few more machine-washable pieces. I expect work dresses, skirts, etc., to be dry clean only, but a few more washable blouses/sweaters would be really nice. Casual clothes, especially, should not be all dry clean only.

    • Kim says:

      Yes, I contemplated a t-shirt on the latest roll out but it was hand wash! They used to make kids clothing in machine washable silk, and I always wondered why they couldn’t use that fabric on women’s garments.

  5. anon says:

    Overlooked is a structural problem in the US economy that has resulted in fewer and fewer middle income jobs. Thus a much smaller market for clothing that falls between high end and fast fashion. This is why not only JCrew but all of the mid-range brands are either moving towards fast fashion or going out of business and designers are abandoning their middle ranges to concentrate on high end.

    • DCQ says:

      The fallacy in your argument, however, is the full price for J Crew clothes is going up, not down, while quality is the other way around. It would be one thing if the prices at J Crew matched the “fast fashion” you’re talking about.

      • Belle says:

        Agreed. J.Crew isn’t lowering the prices and saying, “Okay, we’re going to be Zara now.” They’re trying to keep their mid-price mystique while lowering quality to bump profits. I’m perfectly happy with “fast fashion” quality at H&M or LOFT prices. I’m not happy pretending that a brand that sells $188 is fast fashion.

    • Smarter than crew says:

      Excellent post. $188 for a silk blouse that looks like a 1970’s thrift find??? They saw you coming!!

      The precious JC fans that remember the names of lines of clothing? Too precious.

    • anon plus says:

      You’re completely right! See article below and other research that says there are 2 markets now – low income and 1%. If you can’t afford the 1% lifestyle you’re stuck with the poor quality of the lower income market.

  6. Monica says:

    Quality is important, and part of that is cut I think. Well made clothes should be tailored, if not for everyone, for more than a rectangle. I also wouldn’t discourage them from heading in a more style-normative direction, if they asked me anyways. I’d love to see some positive changes, because I prefer shopping a single brand that I trust rather than gambling at the department store on an unknown for my body and lifestyle. #reviveJCrew!

    • Maisyjean says:

      Yes! Their tailoring is dreadful. The trousers have the same measurements at the waist and the hip, and the rise is either unreasonably short or far too long. I’m unsure also who decided pleated pants and tapered legs were a good idea. It’s also difficult to find a pair of pants that are lined.

  7. Ugh. I just had the same thing happen with a silk Joie blouse. I plan to return it (which I hate to do since I’ve worn it – though only 2x and it’s never been cleaned). I had a bit fall off an also barely worn and un-washed sweatshirt from Shopbop yesterday too. I agree J. Crew is egregious, but it also seems to be a wide spread problem. I’m going to Asia this year and I’m hoping I can get a few things tailored to last for a reasonable price.

    I’m probably an outlier here, while I don’t love the price on the collection stuff and the collaborations, I actually do like some of the more fashion forward pieces.

    • Kim says:

      Yes, but it seems like every time they take one step forward on the fashion front, they take two steps backward in terms of quality and fit, and more often than that, they miss “fashion” altogether and land on “what IS that???” What is fashionable can also be stylish. It can also be cheap and trendy.

  8. Stephanie says:

    The Hairpin comic is super funny, but I think it’s almost misleading. The problem is NOT that Jcrew is failing to provide inexpensive polar fleece to people who work at home. The problem is that they are not offering real world work clothes made of quality materials, and instead they are focusing on ridiculous glittery outfits that inevitably involve rolled up jeans, metallic shorts, and a “just woke up” kind of look. Good work clothes are always going to cost a fair amount, and will likely involve heels and other dressy things. There are other stores for comfort clothes.

  9. Kim says:

    I agree. Lamenting about the lack of polar fleece at JC speaks to a lack of understanding of the brand history. I see your glittery outfits, rolled up jeans, metallic shorts, and “just woke up” kind of look, and raise you flimsy tees swathed in juvenile/nonsensical text, boxy bedazzled blouses, destroyed denim cut to fit only Barbie, and plunging V-necks.

  10. Kelly says:

    Belle, I had this same thing happen with a Jcrew blouse last year and I called them and not only did they sent me a prepaid envelope to return the blouse, they also refunded my money. You should reach out to JCrew customer service.

    • Belle says:

      I’m going to. I’m just heartbroken, because the style and color were perfect for me, but with quality like that, it just doesn’t matter.

    • mindi says:

      I’ve also had this happen several times (with sweaters, a winter coat, tee shirts, you name it): holes, odd fits, falling apart or colors bleeding after one wear.

      I’ve called and emailed J Crew and met with great customer service. They paid to have my winter coat relined, since after wearing for one month, the lining was shredded (not an exaggeration). I’m quite please with their customer service, but the bigger picture is what everyone is talking about here- poor quality. A $350 coat that is supposedly lined in Thinsulate (I say supposedly because I was shivering in my shredded coat!) should not be falling apart after a few wears, right? Regardless of how kind and how immediately J Crew answers their customer’s needs, they need to step up their quality game (which is why I’m shopping elsewhere these days). #ReviveJCrew, indeed!

  11. KVC says:

    I cannot stand the see through/sheer tops. The J Crew silk and cotton have to the lowest possible fabric weights out there. Of course that isn’t going to last. The JC store stylist suggested I layer them; buying 2 overpriced flimsy t-shirts is the answer? No, I don’t think so. Lately when I’ve been in the JCrew stores everything looks so ugly. It stinks because now I’m trying to find a replacement ‘go to’ retailer for JC…The Limited is coming along, but too many rayon pieces, Banana republic is too plain…so frustrating, who has time to shop for themselves anyway, and now I need to find a new regular store? Sigh.

    • MK says:

      Oh my goodness, I know! This problem stretches across multiple retailers. Why do they make work blouses sheer?!?!? Having to wear a camisole under a blouse that should be opaque is beyond annoying. It can mess up the fit, add another layer of fabric where one is not needed, and be a pain to find one that gives the right look. Please, retailers, I don’t want my bra to show through my work blouse.

      • Stephanie says:

        Yes! Yesterday I had to wear a nude camisole under a sheer beige blouse, all tucked into pants with a suit jacket over it. It felt ridiculous. Why couldn’t the blouse be less sheer? And every blouse is either sheer, or else it’s way too long– they style it hanging out over skinny jeans. Or maybe it’s a v-neck so low that you have to wear a camisole for that reason too.

        • MK says:

          Yes! I frequently have to reject blouses for work because they show a substantial amount of cleavage, and a camisole is either too bulky or messes up the look. And yes to the long blouses too. I tried on a pretty and flattering blouse from Banana that would have been great if it weren’t tunic-length.

          • Stephanie says:

            Oh you mean you don’t want to wear a sleeveless tunic length sheer blouse with a plunging neckline over skinny ankle jeans and ankle boots with a four inch heel to work? Fancy that.

  12. HH says:

    Belle – thank you for creating the hashtag and image. Now on to spread the word via social media!

  13. SN says:

    One suggestion. I buy all my cashmere sweaters from Eric Bompard. It is a French brand and not cheap, but the cashmere is of a superb quality, washes well (i hand wash all mine), and doesn’t pill. I buy 1 sweater a year and now have 4. I wear them all winter, both for dressy occasions and travel and they look fabulous. This is the only brand I buy, after many experiments. Given how expensive J Crew is and the poor quality of the clothing-why not buy less, but better quality? We used to save up for good quality clothes and buy far less before about 1990. Maybe we should return to this and worry less about looking trendy all the time. Eric Bompard has a website and ships to the US. I know it is not cheap-but it is definitely worth the money, the styles are classic, yet elegant, and they last for years.

    • Monica says:

      Thanks for passing along the result of your research! I’ve honestly never pulled the trigger on a cashmere sweater, because if I was going to pay what they’re asking I wanted it to last a long time. Love the pointelle styles they offer, you don’t see that much these days!

      I also have to agree with your general philosophy. Of course, that doesn’t diminish J Crew’s failure to deliver a quality product for what most would thing a cost deserving of quality.

      Unfortunately for the consumer, we appear to pay in the end no matter what. If we buy less and demand higher quality their profits go down and they find a way to buoy them through cutting costs, if we buy more of the same junk then they take us for suckers and keep cutting and cutting the quality while raising the price. Not sure who wins with our current retail model honestly.

      • SN says:

        My pleasure-I was merely offering a brand suggestion, and I know it is not cheap. There are good items out there-but yes, I relate to the general downfall of quality in clothing over the last 10 years. I dont shop much at all anymore and am increasingly going the custom tailoring route (I used to make all my own clothes). It costs more, I have few pieces and they HAVE to be classics. Growing up in the UK, we knitted all our own sweaters too-the quality was so much higher! The iAt least we appreciated and cared for the things we had-the irony is we might be going back to that. I have a cashmere pullover I acquired in 1995 that is still going strong because of the quality of the yarn, and a cashmere dress (Pringle) I bought in 1977, so classic, not a single pill, and I wear it eery winter. Clothes like that are no longer made.

  14. Stephanie says:

    I’m kind of hoping Jcrew reads this. If so, listen to me carefully. No one wears suits with tennis shoes, or suits that involve shorts. No one. Just stop it.

    • Belle says:


      • Stephanie says:

        Seriously, have you seen their “wear to work” page lately? It’s literally some woman in an ill fitting navy pants suit and tennis shoes. I honestly feel like it’s offensive to actual women who have to wear suits to work at least some of the time. Like haha, suits are really some sort of sartorial joke. Like when they have stuff that’s way too “menswear” to the point that it looks ridiculous.

        • Belle says:

          Exactly. Like, “Oh, we need to style these up to be fun so we can trick non-proffesional women into buying the ugly things. Poor working women, we feel bad for them.”

  15. Jennifer D says:

    This is interesting. Belle’s post and the comments are one of several threads I’ve read over the past several months re: J.Crew’s mostly unwelcome changes in styling, quality, branding, etc. I have gone through several fashion phases in my lifetime, and I’ll assume many other women do too – full-time career woman to stay-at-home mother or vice versa, formal office to home office telecommuter or vice versa, more travel vs. less travel, geographic moves to warmer or colder climates, and simply progressing through the age brackets. Along the way I’ve been faithful to various retailers when they met my needs, image, and price point, but shifted away when they did not, or when I was able to afford higher-priced items. I didn’t ask these stores to change themselves – I figured they would continue to sell their varying quality business, casual, lounge, and workout wear to their target demographic – and it was my choice to continue paying them, or not. There’s just so much . . . passion(!) around this retailer. Customers don’t seem content to just walk away after multiple disappointments, but they want to state why, and in so much detail. Is it all nostalgia for roll-neck sweater and Bella Jackets? If your skirt hems are fraying and blouses are getting holes, why don’t you request a refund, and replace them with other retailer’s wares? If a store’s merchandise is too “young”, too expensive, too fancy, too trendy, too low-cut, too see-through, too boxy, too oversized, why not simply move on? Why revive? Just curious about the pull this organization has over its very loyal and seemingly wanting to remain loyal customers.

    • Belle says:

      As J.Crew has gone, so have the other mid-price retailers. The other retailers have sized up, used lower quality materials, re-styled to be younger and edgier. They set the trend everyone (BR, AT, etc.) follows. So if you can get J.Crew to focus on better quality and they earn a profit, the other brands will follow.

  16. KTVinMKE says:

    Time and time again, I try to find a mid-price retailer with work wear and casual clothes. LOFT, The Limited and Old Navy continue to disappoint me with their poor quality, unflattering cuts and drab colors. This is why I’m loyal Nordstrom shopper. Its Halogen and Caslon brands are good, and the customer service is even better.

  17. Love this! On almost a daily basis I find myself thinking about J. Crew and what the hell went wrong. I’ve been a J. Crew shopper for years. I have a few pieces from high school that are still in great condition and I am in my 30s. And I happily shopped at J. Crew all through my 20s, glad to keep amassing a wardrobe of pieces I loved. Today I shop the Factory line almost exclusively — it is almost the same quality and at least the price point feels like a better match.

    Thinking about the other article you posted, Gap would be really smart to swoop in here and try to fill that, well, gap in the marketplace with stylish, quality pieces that exist in between fast and high fashion.

  18. Meredith says:

    Death to J.Crew, viva Boden.

    • LOL — I have often described Boden as British J. Crew. I do love a lot of their pieces and i think they find the right price/quality balance. Wonder if they want to open any B&M stores? I do like the ability to touch and feel before I buy.

    • Andrea says:

      YES! Boden is fantastic! Although the prices are comparable to J. Crew, the quality is sooo much better. Linings! Finished seams! AND the clothes fit actual adult women. <3 <3 <3

  19. Sharon says:

    I think the JCrew hate is unwarranted. I’ve been buying their brand sine the mid-1990s. There have been highs and lows, but I think the quality is essentially unchanged. I think most people here expect too much from clothing in the $50 – $350 / piece range. I appreciate that JCrew gives me quality silks, wools, cottons, etc. The details of stitching, buttons, etc aren’t always perfect but IT’S READY WEAR PEOPLE and at a decent price for the fabrics they use.

    Belle, for someone who has decided to take them on, you buy a lot of their clothes and spending close to $200 on one of their blouses sounds like a vote of condfidence to me. Let’s be honest. If you’re in your 30s, JCrew was a cool brand when you were in high school or college. Are we sure we aren’t reverting to high school and loving to hate what’s popular? Also, clothing manufacturers have been changing sizing for years – why are we only blaming JCrew?

    • Belle says:

      I don’t buy “a lot” of clothes from there. Over the last three years, I’ve ordered some things, but almost everything goes back once I see it in person. I loved the color of the blouse and hoped, incorrectly, that spending the money for a Collection piece would translate into a good quality item. We don’t expect perfection or haute couture quality. We just want to feel like an $90 blouse is made better than a $20 blouse from H&M.

      You may think the quality is unchanged, but I don’t agree. I can put the suits from 8 years ago next to the one I bought (and returned) three weeks ago, and they’re not even close to the same.

      The reason I chose J.Crew is two fold: 1) Their CEO claims he listens to customers and responds to their issues, so it seemed like there might be a chance of affecting some change, small though it may be, and 2) As J.Crew goes, so go BR, AT, and other mid-price retailers. Maybe if J.Crew embraces quality again and sales rise, the other retailers will get the picture.

      • Sharon says:

        I’ve been buying this brand consistently since the 1990s. The first 10 years I bought mainly lambswool sweaters, jeans and clogs. Since the early 2000s, I’ve mostly purchased suits (wool and their refined cotton for summer); seasonal pencil skirts (in seasonal tweeds, metalics, prints, jacquard, refined cotton, etc.); merino sweaters; and their colorful flats and basic pumps. The issues identified here – boxy/menswear-inspired cuts, inconsistent sizing, having to return defective products (and I’ll add that their catalog has always been selling on “sexy” a bit too much for my taste) – are problems this brand has always had. You highlight the 2006-11 years as being particularly good, but I didn’t notice that the quality was any different before, during or after that period. All I noticed was they increased stores during that time and produced a higher volume of popular items, costume jewelry, and wedding items.

        Yes the wool suits, coats and sweaters from the early 2000s were different, and I have a few pieces from that error that I still wear. I’d say today their wool today is much finer and refined (you might say thinner); However, I’m not sure this is b/c quality has fallen or fashion has changed. Thick-weave crepe and thick wool looks dated, which is cool if you’re going for a vintage look, but not if you want a modern look. If thick wool comes back into fashion (truly and not just for young women doing a 60s/70s/80s/90s vintage thing), and JCrew doesn’t return to offering those pieces, then I might have to agree with you. Also, let’s not forget that for menswear, if you want a quality suit, you’d be lucky to find it at Brooks Brothers, Suit Supply, Bonobos for $500 – $700, and many quality/bespoke men’s suits run in the $800 – $2,000 range.

        BR and AT are offering almost exclusively polyester fabrics these days – there’s almost no silk or wool or linen or cotton to be found at either BR or AT these days (I think AT has more than BR but less and less each day). Frankly, JCrew stands alone in continuing to offer wool, silk, jacquard, refined cotton, etc. unless I’ve missed a very recent switch to polyester that they’re making. So, again, I’m having trouble understanding where you’re coming from.

        • Laura says:

          Sharon I have to agree with Belle on this one. If you don’t think J. Crew’s quality has changed then you must be shopping at the J. Crew that only sells items from the past. I’ve brought several shirts within the past 2 years and if it was knit it surely has a hole in the armpit and if it was cotton it surely shrank. The only thing I’ve had any luck with would be some of the wool pants and Jeans. I liked J. Crew much better when the clothing never went on sale and the quality was a million times better. I don’t expect my clothing to last a lifetime but I certainly expect it to last through the same season that I bought it in.

  20. […] since I first started buying suits, while the quality has declined.  {Read more about this here.}  That said, J.Crew is offering 30% off through April 26th with the code […]

  21. Mary Alice says:

    i used to LIVE in the V-neck T shirts, but no more. The hems come out, they develop holes, and the fabric feels cheap and thin.

  22. Smarter than crew says:

    They are not the brand of the 80’s when you could buy decent, affordable clothing.

    I stopped shopping their in the 90’s and was flabberghasted by prices.

  23. Liss says:

    Could not agree more with the points you’ve made! I have experienced firsthand fit issues, quality issues, inconsistent sizing, etc. in recent years, while I still have a few pieces from JCrew left over from my college days 15 yrs ago that have held up far better. Whenever I shop JCrew now, I head directly to the sale section. Never would I pay full price for the poor quality they’re offering these days. I wonder if such sentiment and the collective nerve it struck with former JCrew faithful played into today’s news of layoffs and reorg @ corporate HQ. #reviveJCrew indeed!

  24. […] Some customers have used the hashtag #reviveJcrew to air their complaints about the brand at the suggestion of the Capitol Hill Style […]

  25. Jenny says:

    Couldn’t agree more with the posted Jcrew comments. I’ve been a loyal Jcrew shopper since high school. However, lately I find myself walking in the stores and out of the store without bags of clothes. More and more I’ve been questioning myself and wondering if I was getting too old and didn’t have a sense of style or fashion but as I read the articles and comments posted I see others feel their “fashion forward” subpar quality is not equivalent to previous years. Reasons I loved JCrew: High Quality (guarantee to wear several seasons), Preppy Style, a few fashion forward pieces to mix up my overall classic preppy style. I’m curious to find out others “go to” place/brand for clothes?

  26. […] Capitol Hill Style, a blog for professional women who love to dress fashionably, wrote about how issues with the brand’s alleged missteps as well — from its prices to its styles. The blogger, who goes by “Belle,” launched a campaign on social media called “#revivejcrew.” […]

  27. […] Jenna Lyons was dismissed from J.Crew, those of us who had stopped shopping the brand during her tenure breathed a sigh of relief.  I’ve ordered a few things from […]

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