J.Crew Unveils a New, More Inclusive Look to Win Back Customers

The retailer, whose sales have lagged over the past few years, is shaking things up

J.Crew's #meetmycrew campaign features several community organizations. J. Crew
Headshot of Diana Pearl

J.Crew has changed—or at least, that’s what the company is saying in its recently-debuted campaign, which proclaims the start of the “New Crew” era.

It’s no wonder J.Crew wants to reinvent itself: the retailer hasn’t had the strongest half-decade.

Though revenues increased in the last quarter, it faced 15 straight quarters of declines before that. Last year, longtime CEO Mickey Drexler and chief design officer Jenna Lyons (who served as something of a public face and ambassador for the brand) both parted ways with the company.

Consumers criticized J.Crew for abandoning its classic, preppy roots, shifting into more trend-focused, fashion-forward territory. In 2011, J.Crew started showing at New York Fashion Week (it hasn’t shown since February 2017). It also introduced a higher-priced “collection” line. Beyond price and overly-trendy pieces, J.Crew’s troubles were compounded with complaints over sizing issues.

So this campaign doesn’t just mark a new phase in marketing for J.Crew, but the start of a much-anticipated brand pivot—loyalists are hoping it’ll be a return to the good old days of classic pieces at affordable prices. “Everything from our approach to sizing to our campaign approach is evolving,” Vanessa Holden, J.Crew’s CMO, said. “Customers can expect to see a diverse range of aesthetics to inspire their preferences through classic, enduring American style, great quality, good, better and best price points.”

Indeed, J.Crew’s strategy seems to be doubling down on inclusivity, moving away from the days of NYFW presentations and pricey collection items. According to a release, the New Crew is a “customer-centric brand” that’s all about “finding your style and making it your own.”

“We are no longer projecting our style to our customers; but, creating a reflection of their own individual style – becoming a truly customer centric brand,” said Holden. It’s hard not to think of Lyons, whose signature personal style became synonymous with J.Crew, in contrast to this statement.

“This is more than a new look,” she continued. “It’s an invitation to customers to stand up and stand for the values we share: Individuality, equality, optimism, involvement. Our goal is to show that J.Crew is truly for everyone and every body, and to encourage people to redefine and remake J.Crew in their own image.”

The company will also be going back to its roots, so to speak, in ramping up its offerings of classic wardrobe staples: Cashmere sweaters in a wider variety of hues, as well as lowering price points with J.Crew Mercantile (which recently debuted on Amazon). This month, J.Crew is also bringing back its iconic catalog after a nine month hiatus.

Beyond making customers feel like J.Crew is designing clothes for them, not the runways, the “new crew” campaign is also about supporting organizations that “reflect the diversity and vibrancy of America now,” according to a release.

Featured in the campaign include representatives from Girls Inc., an organization focused on female empowerment, Brooklyn United, a music and arts group serving NYC young people and Save the Waves, which works to preserve coastal ecosystems.

“We’ve put the spirit of community at the center of this campaign,” said Holden. “Each of the six crews we worked with are great examples of the power of getting together, getting involved and getting things done.”

“Our mission is to remind them of the power of connection, and enroll them in a call-to-action,” she added. “We want to be a connector that brings new kinds of people together, in a way that not only allows them to engage with J.Crew but also engage with other members of the J.Crew family and our network.”

So fans and customers can show off their own “crews,” J.Crew is also introducing a hashtag for the campaign: #meetmycrew. With this hashtag, the store is encouraging people to share photos of their “crews”—whether it’s their school class, group of friends, co-workers, soccer team or family members—on social media.

This is the sort of marketing J.Crew is focused creating. As Holden said: “We want to be a connector that brings new kinds of people together, in a way that not only allows them to engage with J.Crew but also engage with other members of the J.Crew family and our network.”

@dianapearl_ diana.pearl@adweek.com Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.