Saturday, November 6, 2010

Too Good To Be Crew?

Nov10 J.Crew
1) We received our review copy of the new new new J.Crew catalogue and thought it would be a good idea to review it before it becomes old, old, old, which only takes about a week. Is there a J.Crew National Forest somewhere?

Tape Measure: 136 pages. Women's pages = 95, including Front and Back Covers. For Men: 39 pages/no covers. Ouch. 2 pages for Kids. Nearly 70% of pages for women! No wonder they call their CrewChief Mr. DressHer.

Men's Stuff: Not many "gotta-haves" here. Merino wool sweaters, but they're nothing new in the RareBurgher closet; you already have two crew-necks, one v, and a vest or cardigan. If not, how did you or your loving-one get on this mailing list? Get thee to a merino.

©2010RareBurghers/Model Nathalie
Frank Muytjens, Men's CrewChief, has included Saint James watch caps on a "Top Shelf" page, where they promote classics from other makers.  But, RareBurghers was way out front with our recommendation on these, earning us a private invite to to the Saint James HQ in Normandy from their Head Cap, Yannick Duval (see Three Winter Tales, 3/12/10). Nathalie is wearing a red one, right, and Nathan wears the navy, #2 below.

The corduroy workwear jacket is fine, but not particularly original. Besides we bought a better black one for $50 at the midtown Madison Ave shop (they frequently overstock seasonal items).

As with the women's clothing, these prices are beginning to approach the J.Cruel stage for many loyal customers, including us. Apparently, some of the clothing is not only waterproof, it's trying to be recession-proof as well. Maybe for some, but not for us.

The Crewth As We See It: We may have face up to the fact that these people have been so good for so long that maybe it's getting to be too much about them, and less about us. Jenna Lysons has great taste, but do we need to know her every thought and see her everywhere? And there was Frank M himself profiled in The New York Times "T" Magazine's Fall issue, then The Mickey's profile in The New Yorker recently. No matter how famous he gets, he will always be at least the third most notable Mickey in the world.
We say, enough already. Customers want J.Crew to be about them; and, they want updated classic style that's affordable. If we want to spend gazzilions to look like we're living in a Ralph Lauren ad, we'd just cough up for Ralph prices and the silly polo-pony badge (Not us!).

Every day, thousands of people create new style blogs (see: ), most of them women. Are they a real threat to J.Crew's future dominance? Probably not, except that someone might find a way to organize them into a dynamic central marketplace.

We really like these guys and what they've done. But, can J.Crew's success last forever? That may be too good to be Crew.

2) RareTips: Here is a brand needing no review, because it is consistently great at what it tries to be and do. It tries to reflect the active, outdoors style of its founder, employees and customers. It took an LLBean-like idea and gave it a California attitude. It began making climbing pitons as Great Pacific Ironworks, then vaulted into an iconic position for skateboarders, commuters, and, yes, a million or so upper-middle-class label conscious folks too. Patagonia.

A couple of winters ago, while walking across Soho one day as the wind and sleet kicked me in the teeth, I hung a sharp right south on Wooster St. and headed for the Patagonia store. I purchased this Micro D-Luxe fleece scarf, shown at left on Nathan and above on Nathalie. Later, I bought a black one for my wife, the DG; I steal it on the days she steals my brown one.

It's the same brown as the day I bought it, despite a few launderings. It saved me that day and became an instant-vintage item. What is that exactly? It's something that, once you have it, you think you've always had it. You look forward to its season just so you can use it or wear it. It becomes a natural part of your style, instantly, and it stays that way, even when it becomes tattered from wear.

They don't make brown any more, but black and light grey are fine. Get both: $30 each. One? Grey, please.

Yvon Chouinard & Dog
3) Patagonia's founder, Yvon Chouinard,  never let Patagonia be mainly about himself, while continuing to steer one of the most admired businesses/brands in the world. In fact, many of you will not even recognize his name. If you'd like to know more, read Jeremy Bernstein's archive profile of him in The New Yorker, or JB's book, Mountain Passages, University of Nebraska Press.

When we build our RareBurghers' Hall of Fame, Mr. Chouinard will be a charter member.

4) Depending on when you read this post, you might see that Brooks Brothers has  (have?) wisely begun to advertise on RareBurghers. Hopefully, they will continue to do so after reading our future review of their business and style. Hint: unlikely.


No comments: