J.Crew Turns to Other Brands to Reach Men
By Tom Ryan
Part of J.Crew’s recent success in men’s apparel is being attributed to collaborations with third-party brands such as Levi’s, Warehouse and Red Wing.
The partnerships started in fall 2007 when J.Crew began selling Red Wing boots. The list has grown to 40 partners including contemporary/upscale labels — Warehouse, Billykirk, Mister Freedom, and Superior Labor, and Barbour — and heritage brands such as Alden, Levi’s, New Balance, Sperry, Timex, and Ray-Ban.
For instance, Frank Muytjens, J.Crew’s head of men’s design, told Women’s Wear Daily that he discovered the Warehouse Japanese denim label while on a trip to Tokyo last year. That resulted in a collaboration launched this year on an exclusive men’s style selling for $300.
"It’s small and special," said Mr. Muytjens of the collaboration. "It definitely has a cult connotation to it. Not many people know Warehouse outside of Asia, so it’s unique."
On the other hand, a new line with Levi Strauss was introduced in February. Given access to the Levi’s archives and working with Levi’s staff, Mr. Muytjens developed four exclusive washes for two styles of J.Crew’s selvedge jeans and two non-selvedge styles. All styles featured the Levi’s logo along with a "Made Exclusively for J.Crew" stamp on the inside pocket.
While making only a small part of overall men’s sales, partnering with authentic labels like Levi’s and Warehouse are designed to enhance J.Crew’s image.
"We thought it was a good idea to seek brands like these out," Mr. Muytjens told WWD. "They do what they do best, and no one can copy them. It’s about heritage and authenticity."
With its newfound success solving men’s work and social occasion dress needs, J.Crew is expanding its men’s-only stores and launched a hipper Liquor Store men’s concept.
An article in Bloomberg Businessweek noted that beyond the third-party collaborations, other keys to J.Crew’s success in men’s include offering reasonable price points, focusing on favorite styles, and following the lead of Millard Drexler, J.Crew’s CEO, on the women’s side by gradually updating and upscaling the brand’s preppy look.
"Muytjens understood that men don’t want to be just one thing and then learned how to provide it," Ned Martel, editor of The Washington Post’s style section told Bloomberg Businessweek. "Anyone in an office cares about how they look, even if their sartorial position is ‘I don’t care about how I look.’ "
At the same time, the collaborations help provide what Mr. Drexler terms the "cheeseburger," or that extra flair.
"We’re trying to make the brand relevant again," Mr. Muytjens told Bloomberg. "We’re trying to be a little more edgy, a little more classic with the right twist."
Discussion Questions: What is your assessment of J.Crew’s men’s apparel business? Why do so many retailers struggle in men’s fashion?
- J.Crew Takes a Leading Role in Men’s Fashion – Bloomberg Businessweek
- J.Crew To Introduce Warehouse Collaboration – Women’s Wear Daily