Inner Fashionista, Marketing for Thought

How to create a fashion following

How J.Crew became a fashion powerhouse by reinventing preppy chic and integrating all of their marketing initiatives


Recently I have been obsessed with J. Crew.  Yes, I have jumped on this bandwagon late, considering the countless fashion blogs obsessed and dedicated to J. Crew.

My obsession goes beyond the variety of chambrays, bold stripes, and playful lobster and sail boat prints. I idolize their runway preppy chic, but my current obsession stems from their CEO Mickey Drexler and President Jenna Lyons.  Within the past ten years they have created a fashion power house- a fashion following if you will- that has stepped up and reinvented “preppy,” so drastically different than the way it was when I was growing up.

Not only have the clothes taken a full 360, but so has their entire aesthetic and image.

For the past two weeks I have been researching Mickey Drexler for a leadership paper for my management class at Elon, and one thing that the President Jenna Lyons told Fast Company struck me:

“There were a lot of really talented people, but they were all doing their own thing, and it looked like it. [J. Crew] was bifurcated and fractured. It didn’t come together.”

And she was so spot on.  Researching for our ABAN marketing strategies project this semester made me realize how vital it was for a brand-especially in the fashion industry- to have a cohesive, strong, image on every platform they present themselves.  Everything needs to look in unison and on the same page.  If even one outlet is slightly different, it deters from the power of their image.

the fabulous J. Crew President and fashionista Jenna Lyons,

the fabulous J. Crew President and fashionista Jenna Lyons,

Mickey Drexler and Jenna Lyons revolutionized J. Crew’s clothing lines and overall fashion identity, but they also took the initiative to unite all of J. Crew’s communication channels. According to Fast Company, “Lyons believed that to create a coherent brand and drive the business forward, every piece of the creative organization–from retail to catalog to web–had to be unified”; and that is exactly what Lyons did.

Everything got a facelift- the retail stores, website, and monthly catalog.  Similar to Mickey Drexler’s  “everything is in the details” philosophy  Lyon’s pours over every detail of every cashmere and every website link.

One of the most important focuses Lyons had was uniting the website and catalog into one cohesive force.  She told Fast Company that originally their were different teams of merchandisers working on the catalog from the website- and it annoyed her that you could tell.  They didn’t have the same feel or style whatsoever.

Going on J. Crew’s website or receiving one of their catalog’s in the mail, you can tell that has changed.  Whether you are clicking through online or flipping through the pages at home, you instantly feel like you are looking through a glamourous fashion magazine.  They have their own identity  they own styling.  They use clever headings like “pops of polka dots” and professional editorial photo shoots in exotic locations.  You don’t feel like you are being sold products, but instead like they are presenting you with a new look and all of the means of achieving it.

As much as I love shopping online, I ADORE their catalog.  Despite the demise of mail promotions, J. Crew has found a brillant way to keep their monthly catalogs fresh and at the forefront of their marketing campaign with over 40 million copies distributed every year.  Renamed “J. CrewThe Style Guide,” their new catalog takes their website a step further by showing new and improved ways to pair and wear your favorite J. Crew items.  The Style Guide has even been praised by fashion bloggers including A piece of Toast.

So, why do print catalog’s still work? Because the J. Crew customer wants the availability of fashion at every outlet:

“Our twenty-something customer makes little delineation between channels.  She or he enjoys viewing our catalogue online, in her mailbox or on his phone, so we make sure our fashion is always available no matter where our customers want to view it,” Express CMO Lisa Gavales said. “That said, we haven’t seen any virtual viewing work as well as a good, old fashioned paper catalog.”

Clearly something is working- since Drexler became CEO in 2003, annual revenue has more than tripled to $2.2 billion.  



This post is a part of a series of posts for Integrated Marketing Communications class that explores strategies of integrated marketing communications and recognizes strong and weak branding strategies today.


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