As anyone who hasn’t spent the past few weeks, nay months, living under a rock will be well aware, J.Crew just opened their first UK store right here in London! I don’t need to tell you my feelings about this, excited wouldn’t even begin to cover it. In fact the sheer level of gut wrenching anticipation I felt as I rounded the corner or Regents Street last Wednesday morning to see the J.Crew banners blazing and glimpse the delights within could not be considered healthy. Add to that the fact that I was there to interview the man behind the looks we all go wild for and I’m surprised I didn’t actually faint. So, without further ado, let’s get chatting with J.Crew’s oh-so-charming Womenswear Designer, Tom Mora…
LPA: Do you feel the J.Crew aesthetic has changed or evolved since you joined the company in 2011? If so, how?
TM: When I first started J.Crew was a very different company, then Mickey Drexler shook everything up. He realised that the name J.Crew had such a cache to it, as an iconic American brand it signified quality and taste so we tried to go back to the roots of the company and that’s when it all changed. We really started focusing on using the best fabrics, the best mills, the best cashmeres and looking at how we were making the clothes and all these qualities became integral to the brand, like our unspoken language. I think that the customers very quickly responded to the way the clothes and the stores looked and also to the quality of the service within the stores. It was very important to me that you would be served the same way in a J.Crew store as you would at any designer store on Madison Avenue or Regents Street. I think all these things combined have made J.Crew what it is today and that has stayed consistent. The style evolves but there’s always a casual elegance to everything. There are a lot of luxe pieces but then there’s also really great casual pieces and it’s that mixing, that high and low that we do in a way that no other brand does. So you have the beautiful silk pant that you wear with the jean shirt, or with a utility jacket and it’s that combination of materials that allow us to really style out the brand.
LPA: J.Crew is always seen as an All American brand but, as the sheer levels of London-wise excitement around the store launch show, we Brits are just as obsessed. Why do you think the label has such a global appeal?
TM: I think the clothes do feel global because as we evolved as a brand we started thinking about the world outside of America. The elements of it that make it American are the sportswear and great classic pieces rooted in menswear like the blazer or the perfect trouser. But the reality is that they transcend classic American style and become more of an international style in that they’re just great clothes. They’re clothes that have great value and also great craftsmanship and great quality so I think all those aspects combined are what draw customers across the world to the brand.
LPA: While Brits and Americans clearly feel the same way about J.Crew, do you notice that we wear your clothes in different ways or tend to choose different pieces?
TM: As a brand, what we try to do is give you an idea of how to style the pieces but it’s just a suggestion. Quite often now we find that customers are coming in having seen a look in the style guide or our runway presentation and they want the whole thing just like that which I love. But what’s amazing about the pieces is that they stand on there own so customers can pick them up and style them in their own way. I think that’s what’s great internationally because every country, every area within a country has it’s own look. It’s much like whole the uptown versus downtown thing in New York. Customers can adapt our pieces to their own look by incorporating them into their existing wardrobe or just taking different pieces from the collection because it’s so vast. You’ve got everything from great t-shirts and plaid shirts to beautiful silk blouses which allows for a broad range of ideas so the customer can really pick and choose. Most people dress one way one day and one way another, for example I don’t wear suits every day but I sure like putting them on once in a while, so the wide range in our collection works well for the the international customer.
LPA: Whenever I’m in the states, I always make a beeline for your stores and every single one I’ve been to (which is a lot) look fantastic and very recognisably “J.Crew”. How do you translate the distinctive style of your collections into a retail environment, for example, looking at the Regents Street store?
TM: I think that it’s really important that the stores all blend in to the environment of the city and even the particular neighbourhood they’re in. For example, the Miami store. You just walk in and you instantly know you’re in Miami but also that you’re definitely in a J.Crew store. Our collection store on 66th and Madison is designed you really know you’re on Madison Avenue but it still feels like J.Crew. Then the men’s liquor store is different again, they’re all very unique. There are certain featured that are consistent and key to the brand such as the wood colours, the finishings, the light fixtures, the oxidized brass mirrors, but then there’s always an element that will be particular to the neighbourhood. I think it’s always important that we work with local artists, for instance we had British set designer Shona Heath do the windows and taxi cab display for the Regents Street store. I think how we submerge ourselves within an area is by staying true to the J.Crew aethetic but also making sure that the store feels like part of the area. With Regents Street we didn’t tear the whole front out of the store and make it into something very modern, it still looks like it was part of Regents Street originally as we just blended our style with the local style. You can see that with the menswear store on Lambs Conduit Street or the Brompton Cross store, they both feel like they’ve been there for a long time
LPA: One of the things I, and everyone else, really love about J.Crew is the bold, colourful styling. What do you think is the secret to mixing prints and colours successfully?
TM: As I said, our styling is always just a suggestion to us so I think what the customer should do is look at an outfit we’ve styled and think about what particular aspects attract them to it. We often mix two prints together, or three prints together or a print and a plaid so you have to work out what you’re comfortable with as it takes a very adventurous person to step out in a head to toe look. What you can do is take an element of a look, like a great printed coat, and style it classically rather than with orange pants and a crazy sweater, if that’s how you feel comfortable. A good way to start is by making sure that there’s one classic element in an outfit. That could be a white shirt or a chambray shirt if it’s bold jacket or coat you’re dealing with. Or if it’s a crazy top maybe you pair it with a more classic bottom like a capri pant in black or heather grey. You can use techniques like that to ground the look or just really go to town, try the whole thing and see how it works out!
Love Ella. X