What began at J.Crew’s first men’s only shop in TriBeCa takes a new shape this fall with the launch of the label’s new DiscoveredÂ online shop. “Discovered” is a tightly knit selection of interesting goods from both the J.Crew collection which also includes special product collaborations from outside brands like New Balance, Nanamica and other covet-able clothing of all stripes. Before we get talk more about that, let’s go back to the origins of the J.Crew brand collaborations: Mickey Drexler and The Liquor Store.
Watching all of this develop over the past several years, it’s smart the way J.Crew brings in product from outside brands to mix with all of the apparel that it designs, manufactures and sells under its own label. It’s a realistic approach to how guys dress. Alden, New Balance and Red Wing are the natural footwear compliments to a pair of J.Crew’s khakis, wovens and other clothing categories. So why not leverage the company’s brand to get all of these other interesting labels to make compelling product exclusively for J.Crew. Ships, Beams and United Arrows have mastered this as an art form long ago. So have a bunch of directional specialty stores.
The model is the same: use the cool factor of the brand/store to get cool exclusives to further build on the brand/store’s cool factor. In terms of vertical American retailers, no one does the third-party product assortment better than J.Crew. It’s the culmination of good leadership, effective merchandising, smart retail execution and sharp marketing all-together in one place. Throw in the catalog (which they now call the “Style Guide”) and collaborating with J.Crew is a no-brainer for both small and large brands alike.
Strip all of that away and everything just boils down to good product. All of these collaborations and special products are stuff with longevity that people really want to continue to own and wear for a long time. Alden shoes are never going to not be cool. Same goes for a monogrammed shirt or a pair of New Balance 998s. When the Liquor Store opened five years ago, all of this outside product found a place to live in J.Crew’s physical world. (I was going to say it found a place to stretch its legs, but there’s not much space in the Liquor Store to do much leg stretching â€” that type of space is described in New York by the word “cozy”.) I remember seeing Red Wing boots in J.Crew for the first time in 2007. I was in the store on Prince Street in SoHo (which is now a women’s only store) downstairs there was a huge display of Red Wings with an old archival box that the Minnesota boot maker (which is a client of ours at Paul + Williams) had made special for J.Crew. Looking back, that was straight out of the Todd Snyder playbook, and it was, I think, the beginning of all of these cool product partnerships. J.Crew made the classics feel fresh and put them in an interesting environment. It changed the way we looked at these labels and changed the way people felt about J.Crew. I think it’s a big part of the success of the men’s business there over the past few years.
But the real watershed moment was when all of these great products concentrated at The Liquor Store, that’s when everything reached critical mass. I remembered saying at the time how great it was for Mickey Drexler and J.Crew to be opening men’s only shops â€” an idea I still very much support. (Guys want to shop in a space that’s all their own.) The Liquor Store gave the company a canvas to work on. It was part Mickey Drexler, part Andy Spade, part Frank MuytjensÂ and full of stuff you want to wear. And it’s been a huge success. All of the ideas that were first fully expressed in that space in TriBeCa have continued and grown over time, and now with Discovered â€”which starting this fall and will be an ongoing shop made up of a series of interesting and special product releasesâ€” is the next logical step to keep us all interested and it will hopefully keep the good stuff coming our way. [J.CREW DISCOVERED]