The Biter Report
Businessweek dropped a minor bomb last week with a piece titled, “Where J.Crew Shops for Ideas.” The answer, surprisingly enough, seems to be Freemans Sporting Club and Steven Alan. We’re fans of all three—and also fans of squashing beef—but the whole piece seems to be under the impression that a retail style is the kind of thing you can just copy, like a haircut or a term paper. Not quite...
As usual, there’s a lot more in the way of sly suggestion than concrete detail, but the biggest blow is this picture, which counts out the seven deadly imitations in J.Crew’s men’s shop. Two of them (the presence of Alden shoes and Barbour jackets) are sins you could find in just about any men’s shop worth its salt, while a third (laying out shirts on a steamer trunk) comes from a Globe Trotter collab the Crew’s been running since mid-2008. The fact that FSC has a few steamer trunks lying around hardly compares. The ’30s obsession and Afghan rug both probably trace back to Ralph Lauren—hardly a neighborhood outfit.
But the real problem with this sort of trend-watching is just how diffuse these sorts of market shifts are. Nobody had the idea of collaborating with Alden first, or stocking Barbour jackets. It was an industry-wide push, with each store inching out a little farther, testing out ideas to see what the market could support. If there’s a Big Idea here, it’s that a mass-market retail brand can function like a department store—complementing branded clothing with like-minded goods from elsewhere—but that’s not something anyone else does, and it’s not something local shops have the infrastructure to even consider.
So we’re going to call “fair play” on this one, at least until we start seeing stuffed pheasants on Fifth Avenue.