J. Crew Didn’t Need to Live Forever

The company J Crew has filed for bankruptcy protection and is restructuring. It also lost its way creatively that would be when Jenna Lyons left the companyin 2017

Here are some of the creative elements and legacy Ms Lyons gave J Crew

She made sequins for day a work-appropriate look . . .“In the queendom of Jenna Lyons, sparkles are mandatory,” wrote Vogue’s Maya Singer about J.Crew’s Fall 2015 collection. During Lyons’s tenure, shine of all kinds became a daywear norm, from the crystals known to adorn the neckline of a J.Crew tee to the sequin trim along the hem of a pant. Even allover sequins, like the rainbow-hued skirts and blazers of Fall ’15, were normalized with chambray shirts and khaki trousers.

. . . and turned neons into J.Crew’s definitive color palette. Lipstick, shoes, outerwear, swim—nearly everything that J.Crew sold was available in shocking pink or a pulse-stopping shade of coral. Bright colors appeared in J.Crew stores year-round, as a lemonade yellow blazer for winter or a neon green capri for summer, upending the idea that prepsters lived in New England pastels.

Jenna Lyons painting the toenails of her son

She sparked a cultural debate about gender identity.In 2011, a J.Crew promotional email featured a picture of then creative director Jenna Lyons and her young son enjoying some mommy-and-me time with a jar of nail polish. “Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink,” read the caption. “Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.” Innocent enough, right? Not with the culture police watching. The image prompted outcries from socially conservative parties about “gender confusion,” “attacks on masculinity,” and “princess boys.” While the company made no official comment, it made its position clear when it produced a catalog featuring designer Somsack Sikhounmuong in a playful embrace with his boyfriend. As for the pink nail polish? It sold out.

She rewrote red carpet traditions. Lyons was a fixture on the Met Gala red carpet, using the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s steps as a platform to redefine red carpet expectations. She wore a denim jacket to the gala in 2012 (long before Kanye showed up in jeans), turned her pajamas into eveningwear with a beaded overlay in 2015, and paired a beige cashmere V-neck with a feathered skirt in 2011. Her most memorable turn, however, might have been in 2016, when she showed up with Jenni Konner and Lena Dunham, all three wearing tuxedos and Lyons’s signature black frames.

She defined J.Crew’s accessories offering with eclectic, oversize jewelry.The woman wearing the giant floral beaded earrings and chunky gold necklace? She surely got it from J.Crew. Lyons’s vision for jewelry was part estate sale and part art collector, fusing turquoise with tortoiseshell and enamel with crystals to typically charming results.

She never feared the nipple.The Lyons era will forever be synonymous with sequins for day and cheeky neons. But her most radical contribution to fashion circa the twenty-teens might just be going braless. Nothing says liberated woman like a pantsuit sans shirt.


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Comments 4

  1. If the world needs anything right now it’s Jenna Lyons to buy out J Crew and then let the J stand for Jenna as it always has in my mind!

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  2. Some of my very favourite pieces are Lyons era J Crew—top of the list is THE tutu – it’s a perfect shade of nude. Also the fluro pink cashmere cardi.
    I do hope the brand somehow survives!

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