J.Crew Continues Its Deep Slide

Dec 9, 2015

J.Crew’s perilous slide into fashion obscurity continues.  Their sales fell to the tune of almost $800 million.  Tales of shifty sizing and poor quality persist.  And now their ‘retailer goodwill’ has plunged through the floor.  Apparently, no one is feeling good about buying J.Crew.

There was some hope earlier in the year that J.Crew would return to its roots.  But their Spring 2016 Collection is full of culottes, poly-blend, and sack dresses.  They also seem more interested in designer collaborations than bringing their former shoppers back into the stores.

CEO Mickey Drexler seems to think that customers just see bad fashion as an opportunity for a discount, not a continuing disappointment that has us shopping elsewhere. And retail-watchers don’t think the brand will bounce back anytime soon.

“In a sense we believe that J Crew and its management are not sufficiently humble about the brand’s current status and are rather divorced from the realities of the retail marketplace.”

No kidding.

Yet, many customers are still yelling into the void praying that the J.Crew ‘powers that be’ are listening.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, J.Crew’s customers want quality and style.  Reviving J.Crew will mean returning to the days of classic styles with just a hint of edge, and leaving the ‘canary shearling lining’ on the cutting room floor.

Jenna Lyons should teach a class on how to survive being an ’embattled’ designer.  Marissa Webb didn’t even last a full year at Banana, and we’ll see how long Zac Posen survives at Brooks Brothers.  But as long as J.Crew ponies up the cash to magazine editors, bloggers, and stylists, people will keep singing Lyons’ praises.

You know, except for the thousands of women who no longer shop at J.Crew.


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  1. AM says:

    Now that we know that design is impacting the bottom line, can we stop pretending that Jenna Lyon is the greatest thing since sliced bread?

    • PM says:

      THANKYOU! Amen! She always looked like a deranged lunatic in her dress sense or a 4 year old playing dress-up, depending on the day. Never like a fashion demi-god that everyone purported her to be.

  2. Yellowrose says:

    Belle, I cant TELL you how much I agree with you! I used to love the fact that all the sizes fit the same regardless of the garment (6s fit like a 6 and so on) and I could just click and go. Now the quality is CRAP with only a piece or two each season being reasonable (and the sizes are all over the place). I thought with the hire of the Madewell guy things would get better…ugh

  3. KC says:

    That shearling coat looks like what I imagine Big Bird would look like as a flasher…

    • Crystal says:

      ^^^ What KC said x 1000. I’m dying laughing… except at the price tag. $2,250?! For that kind of money, I could buy Burberry, Hugo Boss, Armani… Target audience, J.Crew, target audience.

    • Anna says:

      Hahaha, I thought it looked like they murdered Big Bird to line the coat, but I like yours better.

  4. Annie says:

    I completely agree with you, but have zero expectations from the brand, given their track record the last several years. I worked at Banana Republic in college 15 years ago and feel the same way about their quality. Some of those pieces lasted me 10 years with good care. Not anymore, of course.

    • Eleni says:

      Same here! I just pulled out my cashmere sweaters from when I worked at Banana Republic and looked at the tag out of curiosity to see when I had purchased them. I have sweaters and clothing from 2000 which have held up and I still wear them season after season. It’s sad to see the quality of their clothing now.

  5. Annie says:

    Forgot to mention that you are one of the few bloggers that will say anything because of course, J. Crew has partnerships with many of the big ones, like Cupcakes & Cashmere and Cup of Jo. I respect both of them but of course, they aren’t going to say anything.

  6. Katie says:

    I find this problem growing with many retailers, not only J. Crew. It makes me want to solely shop at Nordstrom, which I know will stand by the quality of all of their pieces.

    • heatherskib says:

      This is why I buy Boden- not having a Nordstrom for several hours drive. They have a year long no questions asked return policy.

      • Crystal says:

        Just FYI, Nordstrom has free shipping both ways, and I’ve *never* had Nordstrom refuse a return (no matter how long I waited to do so, and including on one item I’d admitted to already wearing once). Plus, you can add discounts by clicking through Ebates.

        • Katie says:

          Tell me how Ebates works with Nordstrom!

          • Belle says:

            Register for Ebates. Go to Ebates. Search Nordstrom. Click the Nordstrom link. Shop at Nordstrom. Next day, check to make sure they credited you. If not, forward your receipt. Done.

          • Crystal says:

            I will also add: I just shop as per usual, get everything in my online basket, close that page/tab, and then open a fresh one up through Ebates. (I’m a multi-tab shopper, and I’m always worried I’ll close the tab that’s tracking my purchase through Ebates, and then have to go through the receipt rigmarole.)
            It’s easy! 🙂 I think Belle has a referral link somewhere, which you should totally use. If you can’t find hers, try mine:

    • mallory says:

      I was going to say this too-its not just Jcrew. The quality is lacking everywhere you look. One of the worst offenders for me is Ann Taylor. You could always depend on AT for well made, tasteful and sophisticated clothing both for work and weekend. For the past several years (maybe more like 6) I have found poor quality and clothes that mostly look trashy and garish. Lastly I will say that I just wore a Jcrew sweater that I bought in the 90’s and its in perfect condition! I stopped buying sweaters there because they only seem to last one season-or sometimes even one wear 🙁

      • Belle says:

        True, it’s not just J.Crew. But JCrew is the only retailer (that I’m aware of) that advertises it’s high quality of materials and construction in the description of every item –finest Italian cashmere, fine silk, handcrafted, etc. It’s the fact that they’re trying to sell us quality with their words, but not deliver in their products that makes them different.

      • KC says:

        I’ve continued to have luck with Ann Taylor. They are the only retailer I can find that has reasonably priced lined suits. (Someone explain to me how Theory can sell unlined pants in thin fabric for so much money…) I buy on sale, and I feel like I get what I pay for. There have been a few misses with sweater materials, but overall its better than the equally-priced alternatives.

        • Stephanie says:

          Well, one explanation is that some people don’t like lined pants. I have on Theory Max C pants right now and I think they would hang weird with lining. I prefer a more fitted line rather than the type that sort of hang off the tight part around the waist or upper hips. Also, it’s not cold here.

      • Kate G. says:

        Like what KC said, I’ve found that Ann Taylor’s suits and professional staples are still high quality, but weekend wear like tops are VERY hit or miss. I do love the vast petite section at AT.

  7. MK says:

    That coat might be one of the most ridiculous pieces I’ve ever seen. And as someone said, if I had $2,500 to spend on a piece, I’d be buying a high-end designer. Not J. Crew.

  8. MK says:

    Also, while I have some quarrels with Banana, both quality-wise (what happened to those cotton cardigans of yore that never pilled?!?) and design-wise (does every single shirt have to be billowy and enormous?), at least it is possible to get good deals on Banana products.

    • Stephanie says:

      Yes! Billowy and enormous. Everything is “drapey” or otherwise oversized. Doesn’t work well with jackets or skirts, and you can’t just wander around wearing long flowy shirts with skinny jeans at some offices.

  9. heatherskib says:

    I only saw 2 pieces in any of the spring previews that caught my eye for J. Crew. An Ivory pleated skirt and a blue striped trench. The rest of it is totally useless.

  10. No says:

    *Continues ITS Deep Slide.

  11. Yikes says:

    That spring collection is absolutely horrible 🙁

  12. E says:

    To be fair, I wouldn’t expect to see better designs from the J.Crew staffing changes until at least the Summer ’16 collection. Given fashion’s crazy ahead-of-season scheduling, most of those clothes for Spring Preview ’16 had already been designed and made before the new designers were even brought on.

  13. RNSF says:

    I feel like we got stuck in a mediocrity loop during the recession. Companies dropped their prices by the way of endless discounts and the quality had to drop as a result to still be able to make profit. The full price we see for those pieces are really not representative of what they’re worth. I feel cheated as a customer when the “normal” for a store is to get at least 40% off. I like Ann Taylor but I would never pay full price for their clothes. Their dresses are nice but their look and wear like $60 dresses not $130. And I’m now part of the mediocrity loop…

    • Katie says:

      Your comment about retailers always running discounts is true. It’s hard for a week to go by where I don’t receive several 30 or 40% off emails from Loft, Ann Taylor and The Limited. I’d rather the stores have higher-quality items than constantly running discounts.

    • Belle says:


  14. Orla says:

    I really don’t have any desire to revive J.Crew. I’ve moved on to other stores. I don’t even go into my local J. Crew store anymore. I hope it closes so something better can move in.

    • Belle says:

      I don’t know where to move on too. Banana is fine, but has quality issues too. Limited isn’t as nice. Brooks Brothers/Talbots are both too matronly. Nordstrom has some good stuff, but no consistent brands (except Halogen) that I can love. I haven’t found another stand-alone retailer, in the same price range, and the same 2005-level of quality that I can make my staple.

      • Mary G says:

        Agree with you Belle. Where to move to in the same price range? I went back to sewing recently and can make my own skirts in fun prints for summer, but where will I find wool lined pants when the five or six I have from J. Crew 2008-2009 wear out? Wool pencil skirts and the pretty silk print skirts and blouses J. Crew used to be known for? I could go on but you get the idea…

      • Christine says:

        This is so true. And most Nordstrom items don’t come in tall sizes.

      • Kate G. says:

        Boden. Consistent on quality (although not on sizing). Also, I could not agree more about Talbots being too matronly. I really want to like their clothes because the quality is good, but I’m only in my mid-thirties… not ready for Talbots.

        • misty blue says:

          Yes 100% agree about Boden. I have a 5-year old cashmere jumper that’ still
          looks as good as new.
          I’m British, so can I suggest another one of our retailers…..
          Marks & Spencers for cashmere/jumpers?
          Also they are GREAT for coats. Also check out their “best of British” range.
          Made in Britain and worth every penny. Not cheap at all unfortunately.
          I’d always check the customer reviews – some of their products can be
          very hideous

      • Chrissy says:

        Agreed and that’s why I’m wearing clothes from 2005. I want to buy J. Crew and this year I did purchase the zipper pencil skirt in jade but that’s it! I haven’t purchased a shirt from J. Crew in two years, their all boxy and over sized. I’m not an XS and a J.Crew x-small is too big! I’ve gone from spending several thousands annually to almost nothing.

        Banana hasn’t been good since 2006.

      • Stephanie says:

        Totally agree. Every thread on every website about this has people telling me to shop at Talbots and Lands End. Nope, not going to happen. I have a Talbots in my mall near my house, thanks, and it’s too old for me even at age 43. I’d rather wear Eileen Fisher (for real, I kind of like that stuff). Those stores would work if I were trying to buy “chinos” and plain button down shirts, or plain sheath dresses that go to mid calf and have lots of room for the belly. Thankfully I’m not . . . yet.

      • Orla says:

        I love Boden,, Joules, and Garnet Hill. Just the other day I asked a co-worker where she gets her sweaters (I think her sweaters always look high-quality with no pilling, etc). She said she gets them at Uniqlo. I am going to be placing my first order there.

      • Erin says:

        My go-to brands for high quality basics are Vince and Theory on sale. I’ve found great prices during sales at Bloomingdales or The Runway Collection at TJ Maxx. I also like Massimo Dutti. Not as cheap as banana sale prices but in line with Jcrew

      • PB says:

        There are several hilarious comments in that J Crew article with some weird troll saying “only QUALITY people buy Brooks Brothers.” That store isn’t even on my radar.

  15. Monica says:

    I tried to replace some tops that had worn out with J Crew a few times this season and returned EVERY SINGLE item both times. The items in question fit well on my shoulders, so I knew they were the right size, but were seriously enormous every where else. And these were button-up shirts, I mean, why would they be so out of scale? If I calculate the price of a J Crew top, even at 30-40% off, and then add in the cost it would take to get them tailored to actually fit in a flattering way…well that’s beyond my budget for their quality.

    I think these last few attempts may have been the final nail in the coffin, because it’s not worth the time to order, try and return for what is continually an exceedingly disappointing experience.

    • Stephanie says:

      I hate to say this, but could it be a vanity sizing issue? Did they maybe decide that the American consumer needs a lot more room in the mid-section, and that they will regard anything fitted as “tight” and “not sized correctly”? Although I suppose that doesn’t explain the giant armholes they’ve had in sleeveless blouses for the last 5-7 years.

  16. Courtney says:

    I love that you just peppered a post slamming J Crew with a bunch of affiliate links. To J Crew.

    • Belle says:

      All the links are to articles, except the coat. The coat link is a straight J.Crew link, no affiliate.

    • Maddy says:

      Considering this post only links to the J Crew website once (and only to show how ridiculous that $2K+ coat is), how do you figure that she “peppered” it with “a bunch of affiliate links”?

  17. B says:

    Can I just say that of the entire group, Loft has become a real star to me? Sure, some of their stuff trends a little boho, but they have decent basics and quality isn’t that different than BR or J.Crew. The dress I bought this morning is going to last at least a year…. for which, I thought the $34 price tag (after 40%, naturally) was more than fair.

    I bought a pair of shoes from J.Crew this year. That’s it. All year.

  18. teresa says:

    Alternatives: Cuyana, Everlane, Theory, Club Monaco.

    • Belle says:

      All good suggestions, I like all of those places. But J.Crew made items in like sweaters in 6-12 colors, and most places you’ll be lucky to get 4. And, CM is a little too rich for my blood on some things.

    • Stephanie says:

      I’ve found Everlane to be too boxy. I haven’t even tried their pants because they looked so awful on the photos of “real people” they included. I will always love Theory, and I need to try Club Monaco again. Wish they had one closer.

  19. V says:

    This is a bit late, but I just ordered a wool crepe dress that looks just like an Ann Taylor wool crepe suit from 10 years ago that is still going strong. It took me a few tries — I am a 4 in the No. 2 pencil, but an 8P to get the waist to be where my waist is. [So: many tries among 4, 6, 8, petite sold out for a while, now petite restocked.] This dress seems to be such a unicorn that I may order in multiple colors b/c a wool dress with sleeves is something I will wear forever.

  20. VE says:

    Jcrew drives me nuts. From 2004-2009/10 most of my wardrobe was from Jcrew. Especially professional clothes. Now, I am frustrated with every purchase. In 2008 or 2009 I purchased a pair of their pixie pants. They have been worn to death, multiple times a week for the majority of the year. Dry cleaned constantly. Last year in 2014 I decided it was time for a refresher pair, as they had gotten stretched and a little thin and also a small bleach stain. After just 1 full year I already need to replace the pants again. UGH

  21. MK says:

    I don’t think that customers are looking to Jcrew for quality and *style*, I think they’re looking for quality and *classics* which is a huge difference. Style is what they are trying to sell us now with the cutesy text tees and culottes (which I happen to like). They need to focus on quality classics–staples that that will last for years and can be accessorized to create one’s personal style.

    But I will day this, 15 years ago all my sweaters from them would get holes after a couple wears. That doesn’t happen to any of the ones I’ve purchased over the last few years.

  22. Sarah says:

    thank you for the links. I’ve been feeling this way about J Crew and Banana Republic and Gap for so long. I struggle to find a place to even get reliable basics anymore.

    It’s a combination of the weird color and fabric choices, cheap quality and silhouettes that seem to be only made for women who are tall and thin like Jenna Lyons. While I think there is nothing wrong with this body type, I wish they would design for a broader base.

    My college J Crew sweaters I bought 15 years ago are still holding up, yet the one from 2 years ago already has a hole in it.

  23. KM says:

    I’ve really gravitated toward a more minimalist closet / adopting a daily “uniform” and I think it’s been because I really have no desire to purchase new clothes with what is available on the market. I wonder if the overall popularity of this trend is due to the lack of good options at mid-priced retailers. Would make for an interesting post!

  24. I like that Jenna Lyons makes me think… I mean I can appreciate that sweater paired with a ballgown skirt worn to the Met. Very cool. Otherwise, why don’t we go back to items women actually want to wear, in a higher quality?

    More Cuyana + Everlane – like, less Cheap Gap and Old Navy..

    They have survived on a lot of great plugs in magazines, by celebs or high ranking women like Michelle Obama, but their older stuff is way better made than their crap today which is a shame.

  25. […] I was a fan and not a fan of Jenna Lyons of J. Crew (I waffle) but this article made me a confirmed fan of her personality and SOME of her clothing choices… also speaking of J. Crew, Belle hit it on the head with this article about their slide on the market. The comments are the best. Go take a read if you are interested in the fall of J. Crew. […]

  26. Sharon says:

    Belle the Jcrew hate (I’m not buying your “revival” bs bc you’re supposedly going to be a lawyer who lives in the real world of markets and incentives) is so distasteful. This is a clothing brand in the modern era, but you treat it like a boy crush that disappointed you “bc he’s so immature”. You are absolutely dating yourself as someone who thought they were cool for school with their jcrew in past years and lost a piece of their identity with this brand, which frankly hasn’t changed that much – you just used to have rose colored glasses on about jcrew. The fact that you know details about who Jena Lyons is or what she’s said is ridiculous – who cares!?! If you ladies aren’t looking at jcrew this season you are missing out on good coats, suits and those georgeous tartan plaid Xmas shoes. Also, good for you writing a paper for law school instead of fashion blogging. I like shopping too (I’m here mostly for Xmas gift ideas and you have good ones and I have no time to find them on my own), but women who want to make it should have far less time for this kind of stuff than your blog suggests (although I realize for you the bog has prob become a quasi-job at this point). As a lawyer who has watched with humor your decent into the law school, I must say that the precious few hours of free time can be better spent by lawyers who want to make it rather than wash out in a few years. Post law school and bar exam, it will seem like you had all the time in the world in law school and that you at least had time to work out when you studied for the bar (at least that’s how all the lawyers with interesting practices I know feel). Set your sights higher (maybe think about launching a new blog that is written for 30+ somethings not 20 somethings and maybe on a new topic) and leave jcrew alone – it’s not a person but it is a company and I am still very happy getting everyday wool suits and coats at a decent price point please. This jcrew campaign of yours should not be your passion, both bc jcrew deserves more respect and bc you should have a more respectful passion.

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