Just as our American cousins seem to love all things quintessentially English, from Morrissey to Downton, we have a serious soft spot for their stuff too. Right now you can’t move for dirty burgers, chicken wings, lobster rolls and ribs in London and fashion-wise, we can’t get enough of their laid back style.
Enter the J.Crew pop-up store which occupied a double-height industrial space in a corner of the new Central Saint Martins building in Kings Cross over two days recently. I joined all the fans of Americana and style bloggers and made a pilgrimage there on Saturday.
Under Creative Director Jenna Lyons’ visionary leadership, J.Crew has become known for two things: colour and cashmere. There’s something so smart, so chic about taking all-American, preppy classics like round-neck sweaters, button-down shirts and chinos and reimagining them in sporty, eye-searing brights – neon pink, fluoro coral, day-glo yellow. It’s playful but grown-up at the same time.
I struggled a bit with the price point of J.Crew for a while because I made the mistake of putting the clothes in the same bracket as their preppy brethren – Gap, Banana Republic etc. But this is high-end high street – more like Whistles, Joseph or APC - and once you accept that you’re paying for quality and a little extra pizzazz (jewelled collars, Italian-made shoes and the like), then the pricing makes sense.
So often we think that investment pieces need to be boring, ‘useful’ wardrobe staples, but that’s all wrong; why wouldn’t you want to invest in something beautiful and well made that makes you feel special every time you put it on? Just because something’s fresh and colourful, rather than classic and neutral, that doesn’t mean it can’t be an investment piece – if it’s well designed it won’t feel stale next season - quite the contrary, you’ll love it and wear it forever.
I must admit that all these photographs serve a dual purpose – part aide-mémoire for this story, part shameless shopping list. I will be buying that cunning navy peacoat/bomber jacket come November, and more probably the high leather boots and a bit of cashmere too (but what colour?) and it’d just be silly not to invest in a pair of perfectly cut wool trousers...
J.Crew fills that gap which I’ve identified in my wardrobe in recent years – so many of my clothes feel too ‘young’ and I don’t want to wear the same things as teens or twenty-somethings, but I don’t particularly want to look ‘grown-up’ in the sense of ‘smart’, corporate, or boring either...
So far I've only braved the UK site once to purchase this lovely swimsuit - it was a nervewracking experience because I had to assume that the sizing was the same as in Gap (ie. if you want a 10, you buy a '6') - luckily I was right, so didn't have to send my purchase back across the Atlantic. So bear that in mind when you're shopping on their site, but also rejoice in the fact that come November 1, there will be a real live J.Crew store on Regent Street!
Inbetweener brands like J.Crew and APC are more costly but you get what you pay for – clothes that feel adult in the quality of the fabrics and craftsmanship, while still having creative, exciting design. That represents a good way to navigate the awkward transition from twenties to thirties for me.