I read many - probably too many - articles about retail. More than any I’ve seen recently, last week’s The New Yorker article, "Why J. Crew's Vision of Preppy America Failed", nails so much about retail today.
Some of Joshua Rothman's opinion is specific to J. Crew, such as designs that became "overpriced, eccentric, and downright ugly".
Some of it makes observations about J. Crew that can be applied more broadly. First, the notion that whimsy appropriate during the Obama years today "feels like a troubled and doubtful impulse" resonates with me.
Second, the article posits the A-to-Z lifestyle promulgated by J. Crew isn't something to which today's consumers aspire when it comes to their relationship with brands. But is that true? On a small-scale, Outdoor Voices promotes the #doingthings hashtag to foster a community that not only shops the brand but goes jogging together through Soho and Austin. Is the lesson that a lifestyle brand needs to be about more than product? And/or that J. Crew became unrealistically dictatorial in what being part of their crew had to look like from morning until night, weekday through weekend?
The most important paragraph cites The Business of Fashion and speaks to a shift rarely discussed:
"The middle of the market has disappeared: while aimless, open-minded shoppers are happy to haunt Zara and H&M, discerning ones turn every purchase into a research project, gravitating toward Web-centric brands such as... Reformation and Everlane."
This illustrates the relative rise of fast fashion, the future of smaller and more-specific brands, and the waning of everything in between.