The Limited filed for Chapter 11 in January, and has closed all of its stores. The short answer is the Internet. Millennials tend to spend money on gadgets, rather than clothes, and rarely go to the mall; savvier customers have learned to wait for coupon codes. Then there is Amazon, which accounts, by itself, for more than half of all growth in online retail, according to the market-research company Slice Intelligence. By allowing customers to search across brands, it devalues branding in general, reducing the potency of the world-building in which companies like J.
Crew have invested so much. When I recently dropped into the J. Crew store near my office, it was easy to see how all of these problems had converged. The environment was pleasant, and the salespeople courteous, but the clothes had looked better online, where they appeared on models, than they did on the racks. The store was typically sized, but the selection seemed oddly small—smaller, at any rate, than the selection offered by the entire Internet. During the Obama years, nostalgia might have seemed harmless, even admirable, but today it feels like a troubled and doubtful impulse.
Does it make sense for young, urban men to dress up like Rust Belt factory workers, or for women to embrace the style of Hyannis Port in the nineteen-sixties? The answers to those questions have changed over the past six months. The most striking thing about the store was, for lack of a better term, its pervasive, all-encompassing J.
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Every item—critter shorts, pocket squares, the Frankie sunglasses—represented a facet of a familiar, imagined life. The names of the products—the Ludlow and Crosby jackets for men; the Rhodes and Maddie pants and Campbell and Regent blazers for women—fixed J.
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Crew in a certain place and milieu. Once, this was comforting.
Now it felt odd to be told by a company that I was, or wanted to be, a certain kind of person. Crew Crew, or any crew.
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Later the same day, I logged onto Facebook. The implication was that I was a self-defining, self-sufficient person.
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In theory, these clothes said almost nothing about me. In practice, of course, they say as much as clothes always do. Recommended Stories News Desk J. Sign in.
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