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How Millennials Killed J. Crew

Designers

RIP

Death knells have been ringing for J. Crew for some time now. As early as 2014, news started spreading about the once thriving brand's imminent demise. All sorts of factors were blamed: The exorbitantly inflated prices, the increasing unwearability of the designs (does literally everything need to have rhinestones?), and the decrease in mall traffic, something that has been blamed for the diminishing returns of several other retailers like Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch. But despite all the effort exerted to figure out the reasons for the brand's lack of appeal, none of the fixes made much of an impact on J. Crew's declining fortunes. The negative press snowballed, culminating in the news earlier this month that the company's highly lauded CEO, Mickey Drexler, would be stepping down, and the brand would engage in a dramatic course adjustment, closing many of its stores and exploring wholesale opportunities.

While there were undoubtedly many heads to the serpent which killed J. Crew, this particular hydra's body seems to consist primarily of one thing: millennials. Comprising the largest population bloc in the U.S., and with estimable spending potential, millennials have become notorious for their ability—and willingness—to send long-established brands into an economic free fall, frequently leading to their demise. And J. Crew appears to be the latest victim. 

The millennial shopper's wants and needs have been studied extensively as of late, and what's been determined paints a pretty positive picture of said consumer, but an equally dire future for retailers like J. Crew and its ilk. Shopping patterns tend to reflect cultural interests, and for millennials, culture begins and ends in one place: the internet. How this translates into sales is pretty simple: Online shopping lends itself to easy and quick comparisons, meaning that millennials are incredibly discerning in purchasing because they are adept at finding exactly what they want out of seemingly infinite options. This stands in stark contrast to decades past when people would just head to the mall or a stand-alone store, see what was readily available, and buy from the offered selection. Now, the internet has placed more power in the hands of the consumer, and millennials are wielding it in interesting, disruptive ways.

More than any other generation before, millennials seek individual experiences. This doesn't necessarily translate into millennials only buying one-of-a-kind or high-end clothing, but it does mean that in the widening gyre that is the retail world, the center can no longer hold; millennials shop the margins. This is why fast fashion retailers like H&M and Zara continue to attract customers who are content with sifting through tons of options, confident that they can find something that suits them personally and that is also affordable. But it's also why brands like Everlane (dubbed the "J. Crew for millennials" in 2016) and Reformation are doing so well; these retailers appeal to millennials' desire for conscientious fashion that might be mass-marketed, but that is also capable of making millennials feel like they are buying into a brand that doesn't just share their aesthetic sensibility, but also their ethical one.

And millennials want that! They want to find a brand that shares their beliefs, rather than attach themselves to a brand and adopt that brand's ethos. Millennials are looking for something to wear that shows off who they are. And this was getting increasingly hard with J. Crew, which developed and fostered—but refused to evolve—a very distinctive style under former creative director Jenna Lyons. That style consisted of mixed patterns and textures, distressed jeans, jewel-toned high heels, a super-specific makeup look (bright lip and coral cheek flush), and spangly rhinestones on everything from Breton striped shirts to schoolboy blazers. It was a style that was coveted for a hot second in 2012, tolerated in 2013, but then dated by 2014. Rather than move away from it, though, J. Crew dug in hard, making it difficult to go to one of its stores and find something that felt personal to anyone other than, probably, Lyons herself. To wear J. Crew in 2017 would be to dress like everyone did in 2012, a sartorial callback that feels as unearned as it does misguided; as Joshua Rothman wrote in The New Yorker earlier this year:

When I contemplated those dresses, what struck me was their willful nostalgia; preppy clothes may be inherently nostalgic, but the whimsy of these items seemed over the top. During the Obama years, nostalgia might have seemed harmless, even admirable, but today it feels like a troubled and doubtful impulse.

There's another sentiment that these clothes seem intended to evoke though: guilt. Or, rather, the pangs of discomfort that accompany feelings of disloyalty. J. Crew's insistence on promoting its once-popular styles seems like it was a strategic way of reminding customers that they once loved these designs, and thus making us feel like we are abandoning something we once loved in its time of need. It's a classic appeal to the idea of brand loyalty, something that retailers are rapidly learning millennials don't have much of—not for clothing brands, beer, bar soap, or fast food chains.

But while there have been many people decrying millennials lack of loyalty, acting as if it's some kind of a character flaw that this generation refuses to buy products which it finds inferior, the fact is that it's not only a sign of intelligence in the millennial consumer (seriously, "loyalty" is only demanded by people who want something out of you, like that you buy their clothes or stop the FBI investigation into your ties with Russia), but it's also a remarkable opportunity for brands to develop in ways that will not only benefit them with millennial consumers, but that could benefit them long-term. After all, the things that millennials say they want—high-quality, eco-friendly options that place an emphasis on individuality and experience—are not things to be afraid of; the fashion industry is the number two source of pollution on this planet, perhaps it's time for a shift in a healthier direction anyway. One thing that's clear, though, is that the surest way to retailer death is by refusing to change course and adapt to a rapidly changing retail reality in which consumers hold a new kind of power, and aren't afraid to use it.


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Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for goop

"I had to create a harder shell about being a woman"

In a panel discussion during Gwyneth Paltrow's In Goop Health summit, actress Jessica Alba revealed that she "stopped eating" to avoid unwanted attention from men when she was first starting her career in Hollywood.

According to People, Alba said that she "had a curvy figure as a young girl" and, as such, was made to feel as though her body was the reason that men may be inappropriate toward her. "I was meant to feel ashamed if I tempted men," Alba said during the panel discussion. "Then I stopped eating a lot when I became an actress. I made myself look more like a boy so I wouldn't get as much attention. I went through a big tomboy phase."

She continued, "In Hollywood, you're really preyed upon. They see a young girl, and they just want to touch you inappropriately or talk to you inappropriately or think that they're allowed to be aggressive with you in a way."

Alba also noted that she was raised in a conservative household. "My mom would say, 'You have a body, and it's very womanly, and people don't understand that you're 12,'" she said. "I wasn't allowed to have my nalgas out, which is butt cheeks [in Spanish], but I was born with a giant booty, and they come out of everything. So, I didn't get to wear normal things that all my friends wore."

She said that these reactions to her body really affected her attitude. "I created this pretty insane 'don't fuck with me' [attitude]," she said. "I had to create a harder shell about being a woman."

According to her, her relationship to her body only changed when her first child, Honor, was born in 2008. "[After she was born,] I was like, Oh this is what these boobies are meant to do! Feed a kid!" she said. "And that was the dopest shit I'd ever done. So, I came into my body as a woman finally and I stopped being ashamed of myself."

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Photo courtesy of Teva

Because of course

Teva, the most obvious lesbian footwear brand since Birkenstock, really knows its customer base. In time for Pride, the brand has teamed up with Tegan and Sara for a gay shoe to end all gay shoes. In other words, your Pride footwear is on lock.

The shoe isn't just your average Teva sandal. Tegan and Sara's design, the Teva Flatform Universal Pride sandal, is a 2.5-inch platform shoe with a rainbow sole. Tegan and Sara noted in a press release that they have been Teva wearers for pretty much their whole lives. "We got our first pair of Teva sandals when we were 16," they said. "This rainbow Flatform collab is like full circle LGBTQ+ Pride validation."

What's better, with each sandal sale, Teva will donate $15 to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, up to $30,000. The funds donated will go toward scholarships which will give young members of the LGBTQ+ community the chance to go to summer camps which will "help develop self-confidence and leadership abilities in a safe and nurturing environment." Tegan and Sara added, "Teva's generous support for our foundation will allow us to help even more LGBTQ+ youth."

Available today at Teva's and Nordstrom's websites, the sandal retails for $80.

Photo courtesy of Teva

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Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

"Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design"

Prada Group has announced that Prada, as well as all of its brands, will now be fur-free. According to a press release from the Humane Society, Prada, Miu Miu, Church's, and Car Shoe will ban the use of fur beginning with the Spring/Summer 2020 collection (aka the Fashion Week coming up next). The list of fashion designers banning fur only continues to grow, with 3.1 Phillip Lim, Coach, Armani, Versace, Gucci, and more having stopped using the material in seasons past.

"The Prada Group is committed to innovation and social responsibility, and our fur-free policy—reached following a positive dialogue with the Fur Free Alliance, in particular with LAV and the Humane Society of the United States—is an extension of that engagement," Miuccia Prada told the Human Society. "Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design while meeting the demand for ethical products."

Following London Fashion Week designers forgoing the use of fur in September and the first-ever Vegan Fashion Week taking place in February, it's easy to imagine an entirely fur-free fashion future. It's especially easy, I presume, for the brands to consider a fur-free future, given that entire cities and states are taking a stance. New York is following in the footsteps of Los Angeles banning fur, with a bill proposed this March that would ban sales across New York State.

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Photo by Johnny Dufort

"Club leisure" is the new athleisure

Alexander Wang is recognizing clubbing as the workout that it truly is with his latest Adidas collaboration. In this fifth installment, he "changes gears," per a press release from the brand, taking the iconic sports brand to the dance floor.

For the new campaign, the collection comes to life in iconic choreographer Tanisha Scott's dance studio and stars dancers Noemi Janumala, Dakota Moore, Avi McClish, and Olivia Burgess. The dancers show just how far these clothes can go when you want to bust a move or stretch, but TBH, I'll leave these poses to the pros and just use my clothes for flexing on the 'gram.

The collection—which features six apparel items, three shoes, and six accessories—features, per a press release, "Wang's knack for pre-styling." Standouts from the mostly black-and-white items include a silver sneaker that was *made* for moonwalking, an airy windbreaker that has just the right dash of bright blue with the scattered Adidas trefoil design, and a towel hoodie that you won't feel bad sweating in.

Ahead of the May 25 collection drop online and in stores, peep the gorgeous campaign images below.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Joggers, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Towel Hoodie, $350, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Sock Leggings, $60, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Adilette Slides, $90, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Futureshell Shoes in Platinum Metallic, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Core White, $280, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Shorts in Core White, $120, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Bum Bag, $50, available staring May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Duffle Bag, $70, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

NYLON uses affiliate links and may earn a commission if you purchase something through those links, but every product chosen is selected independently.


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Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

And Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's reaction to that prediction is literally all of us

Though it felt like no one saw the bonkers end to Game of Thrones coming, Gwendoline Christie, who played Ser Brienne of Tarth on the show, predicted exactly who would end up with the majority of power in the Seven, or rather, Six Kingdoms years before it all went down. During an interview leading up to the penultimate season of Game of Thrones in 2017, Christie sat down with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (aka Jaime Lannister) for an interview with Mario Lopez, and they were both asked to predict how the whole thing would come to a close. Spoilers ahead...

Lopez posed the question, "If you were a gambling man, who would you say?" Coster-Waldau replied: "Well gambling, the odds now are clearly in Daenerys Targaryan's favor. Or, that guy," he said, pointing to a picture of the Night King.

But Christie, knowing Game of Thrones' tendencies toward the unpredictable, came right back at Coster-Waldau, asking, "But don't you think it's going to be someone out of left field?"

"So I'm wondering if it might be Bran," Christie suggested, "Just because we keep seeing the world from his perspective, don't we? We keep seeing the visions. So is he in the future, projecting in the past?"

Coster-Waldau's reaction to the suggestion that Bran will rule over them all is, well, exactly how we all felt watching it play out in real time this past Sunday evening. "The three eyed raven? As a king? No, that doesn't make sense," he said. And, well, same. Because while I usually *adore* watching Christie shut down Coster-Waldau, like they're an old married couple bickering, this time I'm on his side. It made no sense!

Coster-Waldau attempted to reason with her, saying that if Bran was planning the whole thing, then he wanted Jaime to push him out the window, and that makes no sense at all. But Christie stood firm in her belief, and, as last Sunday demonstrated, her commitment to this highly improbably outcome paid off. We hope she placed a sizable bet in Vegas.

Catch the full clip below.

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