Dear Ms. Lyons,
Would I be too upfront in asking that, next time you sit down at your messy desk, in your stylish office, looking for inspiration for your next collection, you think of me?
Let me introduce myself. I am 51 and, in more ways than one, the poster child for my generation of women: still very engaged with the world, in good shape, living in an urban area, I look nothing much like my mother did at my age. Fashion-wise, I grew up with Vivienne Westwood and Giorgio Armani, Yoji Yamamoto and Gianni Versace (pre-Donatella). I often browse the virtual pages of Vogue for the latest couture collections I cannot possibly afford, looking for ideas and styles that might suit me. In short, I am your dream customer.
For many years, J Crew was, in my mind, a cross between Ann Taylor and Gap, a brand I would patronize when in need of basic tees and woollies but not much else. When you started to inject personality, color and individuality to the collections, I payed attention. And shopped. And I loved you for it. You, Ms. Lyons, spoke my language of a style and whimsy I could afford.
Lately, though, my love affair has been cooling. From your spectacular Spring/Summer collection, I plucked silk pants and tunics, and that polka dot bikini that seemed designed for my body. And some wedges. But the dresses I really really wanted were all 3 inches too short. You will see, it will happen to you, when you cross that 5-0 line: no matter how toned, there is something about your knees you will not want to exhibit any longer and knee-length skirts will suddenly look more appropriate. From your Fall collection, I love that little black dress with the white border – it would look so lovely on me ….. if only it didn’t end mid-thigh.
And a word on quality. I understand the effort to keep your products affordable but, that adorable French Hen sweater I snapped up, has turned flimsy after two dry-cleans. And the long sleeve tissue tees my blogging partner sofagirl so loves (and has worn for over a decade), have become mini-dresses – even with careful ironing. No longer wearable for any purpose but as a cover up for yoga or to sleep in.
We 50 something women wield considerable economic power, something most clothing designers seem to have forgotten. We are the generation who helped make couture and design mainstream and conversation centerpieces and we are not prepared, all of a sudden, to have our choices limited to pencil skirts and buttoned up blouses. Pants that are not painted on and with a waistline at least an inch above the hip bones; knee-length creative dresses not limited to the ubiquitous demure cocktail numbers; skirts in shapes other than pencil – it would be nice to have such choices at the price point J Crew has been offering over the past few years.
I am definitely not advocating J Crew goes back to only the basics – I wouldn’t be caught dead in khakis. But, Ms. Lyons, next time you find yourself in your creative space, spare a thought for the likes of me: still fashionable, still hip. And still your customer.