by MAYA SINGER
Just as they did last season, J.Crew elected to show their new collection on “real people,” ones who were longtime friends of the brand. (Side note: Are professional models not real? If you prick them, do they not bleed?) And the “old friends” theme continued in the clothes: As Somsack Sikhounmuong, the brand’s head of womenswear, acknowledged at the J.Crew presentation today, he and his team had done some archive-raiding this season. The happy result was that classic J.Crew looks such as the rugby shirt and rollneck sweater have been brought back after a lengthy retirement. People—real ones—who lived in those pieces in the ’90s will be very pleased.
J.Crew staples of more recent vintage were on view here, too, in pleasantly updated form. Khakis were revised as slouchy camo pants or olive drab cargos; shirting in white or seersucker stripes got new blouson shapes; the go-to blazer was given a more languid re-tailoring.
The general effect was to sand off some of that preppy J.Crew crispness and replace it with a look more dishabille. If the prep was diminished, though, the brand’s trademark pep was fully intact: Cheerful Fair Isle sweaters, frothy satin and tulle skirts, and heaping helpings of bold and pastel colors made this outing feel characteristically upbeat. (Patches and heart-and-star motifs, meanwhile, pushed the tone just-so-slightly into the dimension of the twee.)
One did catch an undercurrent of anxiety here—not anything to do with the events in the news that have fed that mood at other shows, but rather an identity crisis specific to J.Crew. This collection was trying to be a lot of things—a supplier for low-slung camos, a source for baroque pleated evening skirts, a home for trim tuxedo looks, and so on. What does the J.Crew customer want from this brand? The answer was probably to be found in one emblematic look: a pair of the camos worn with a long, striped button-down in pale blue and one of the new drape-y blazers in indigo velvet. That outfit had the quality of, yes, an old friend—one you still like seeing because they’ve still got something new to say.