Posted by Bethan Holt, Junior Fashion Editor at Large
In case you hadn't heard, J.Crew opened today on Regent Street. There was a big queue, a fancy party and a massive bunch of balloons to hail its much-anticipated arrival after years of being a kind of mythical style mecca to which anyone in-the-know flocked on touchdown in the US. It will be interesting to see how our collective J.Crew love evolves now that we are not in a long distance relationship, especially if you actually live in London. I doubt it'll be a reverse case of "absence makes the heart grow fonder" but it's almost certain that there will be far more conversations in which cooing over a particular garment leads to a discovery that said item was picked up on the wearer's way home from work, IN J.Crew rather than "I saw something like it on the J.Crew site and got inspired and went and bought something like it in XXX". There are a few subtleties to J.Crew's UK arrival which I've been thinking about...
1. They are embracing Englishness
The magazine/ lookbook which has been produced in tandem with the UK round of shop openings features a very English country scene which, unusually for J.Crew, does not immediately scream "J.CREW". It actually looks more like a humble homage to the pastimes which J.Crew expects its new segment of UK customers will enjoy. This images feels to me like it is aimed at the people who aren't actually excited about the brand's arrival because they don't know it exists yet- shocking/ how is that possible, I know. These are the ones who will come in for armfuls of cashmere jumpers (if they deem it to be better than M&S's) and the preppier pieces. It will take them a long time to be converted to jazzy necklaces and sequin pencil skirts. This is the ultimate gently, gently image.
2. They are delivering impeccable service
When I went into the men's store when it opened on Lamb's Conduit Street a few weeks ago, they gave me a free umbrella, were friendly (but not too friendly) and stood back, making it feel like you could just browse in a shop which is really so tiny that it could be intimidating to go inside for fear that a shop assistant would be breathing down your neck the whole time. Impressive. This could be where J.Crew makes a real difference in the UK, blending the best of both service cultures.
3. They might be trying to evolve the classic Jenna Lyons look
Back to this lookbook and some of the images within are a real departure from the Jenna look which has been a huge part of putting J Crew on the fashion map. Some of the shirt collars are undone. Lips are bare, not red. There are no glasses. The brilliant outfit ideas are still there but I love that they are introducing J.Crew to the UK at this fresh level. It sort of feels new again.
4. They probably won't "change the high street".
There has been a lot of talk that the arrival of J.Crew might change the high street. This is probably not going to happen. The mid-market/ high street landscape is very different here to in the US and I think we like a store with a strong identity (see: COS, Topshop, Uniqlo, Whistles). J. Crew will bring something new to that mix but any influence their styling was going to have has probably been felt already.
And with that, I, along with countless others (probably) am finally off down to Regent Street.