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Annie - San Francisco, CA

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Entries in catalogs (7)


It's Back: J.Crew Catalog Theater

Now that the FashFilmFest is over (but will return in 2013!) I'm back to blogging! What better way to get back into the routine than with a favorite? By request and popular demand, I've got a new edition of J.Crew Catalog Theater, from the April catalog... The models are sad, sassy, confused, and wearing things we've seen before. But don't hold that against them! They're models, they can't do any better...


J.Crew Spring Catalog Theatre!

It's been a very long time since the last episode of J.Crew catalog theatre and the only reason I can give you is that the stylists at J.Crew have seriously upped their game of late. I'm not going to lie - they've done a great job at making their pages both appealing and shoppable. That is, until now... (I hope my sister and her New York crew enjoy... I hear they love it when I get sacriligious.)

I was so happy to find this issue in my mailbox full of odd, ackward poses, models who are both pale and hungry, and very very strange styling choices.

There's a lot of ground to cover here, so indulge me. And yes, I edited out a few pages too - there was just too much good stuff...







J.Crew's Florals Are Not Liberty (Yeah, Right)

J.Crew catalog cover - April 2010If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know how entertaining I find the J.Crew catalogs. When it arrived last week, I knew the spring catalog would be a lark of styling and trite cuteness, and it did not disappoint in this regard. But I found what J.Crew wasn't saying in the styling and products to be the most interesting thing. There seems to be a pink floral elephant in the room and her name is Liberty of London, and while J.Crew is quite liberally borrowing from said elephant, they never get down to giving her a peanut of acknowledgment.

This is puzzling to me. Why would you go to the trouble of designing a collection that is clearly so influenced by Liberty prints, only to not mention it? It occurs to me that J.Crew wants to distance itself from the Liberty of London for Target collections as much as possible. Still, the similarities are obvious, so not stating the influence makes the brand seem foolishly out-of-touch especially given their style-savvy customer base.

J.Crew definitely takes its nods from many other designers and trends in the market. While their take is always fresh and wearable, they are frequently late to the party.

Looks from Louis Vuitton Spring 2007 collection. Images from

Most notable in this "lateness" is the cover. A lovely image of a lovely girl, true, but notice how very similar the look is to the Louis Vuitton Spring 2007 runway looks, full of flowered headbands and Liberty prints. Or, would it be best to just leave that out? I thought so.

Then there are the gigantic spreads of wispy floral separates, and even a model sitting amongst a makeshift flower stand that try to bring home the point. Yes, it's spring, yes, florals are on-trend. Thank you, J.Crew for making that abundantly clear.

Images from

To my eyes this styling looks a bit stale, especially after the lush and playful ad campaign Target sent out for the Liberty of London collection. It's easy to see that everyone has a fascination with the English garden party-reduxed-Alice In Wonderland-for the Brooklyn girl thing, so J.Crew's version looks like a mere footnote. Not coming out and owning the reference to Liberty prints makes this even more embarrassing.

Last spring's J.Crew catalog was also full of stylistic afterthoughts, which were so obvious to me that it was laughable. (Read all about it here.) To repeat the same level of performance again this year is truly disappointing. The brand is solid, so why not push it a little bit? I'm certain J.Crew has a lot of talent and creativity on-hand, so why do their catalogs tend to bore or send the eyes rolling with ridiculousness? Why does J.Crew's catalog team tend to play it safe and re-work old ideas and old styling?

Because of their popularity and brand power I think they are in the prime position to do more creative things with their marketing and product communication, and yet they always fall well below expectations in this area. It's especially hard to swallow when you enjoy and appreciate the brand's products like so many of us do.

What do you think?


Catalog Craziness

Rather than immediately recycling them, I've been saving up my catalogs since around Thanksgiving, just as sort of social experiment. I always get a lot of catalogs during the holidays, so I thought I'd take a total at the end of the shopping season to see how many I'd received. Keep in mind that I am one person, living alone, with no roommate or live-in boyfriend who would use my address. I also don't have a lot of credit accounts, which is one way you get on a lot of mailing lists for random catalogs...

Even with those constraints, I received in excess of forty catalogs during the past 4 - 5 weeks. When stacked up, the whole group measures over six inches tall.

While I occasionally flip through catalogs to see how they're photographed and merchandised, I consider them to be a retail magazine that sets the tone for the brand image. But shop from them? No. They're handy for me to get a preview of what's in the store, but in reality, isn't that what websites are for these days?

Being a member of the internet generation, I've never really shopped via catalog. I remember the days when my mother used to find her SKU codes, total up her amounts with tax and shipping, fill in a form from the center of the catalog, and send it off to someplace with a check in a pre-printed envelope. This method of shopping has been around since the days of the original Sears Catalog, but it hasn't been a part of my life at all.

I shop online or in an actual store, but I've never once dialed a number and ordered via catalog. Which of course begs the question, why do I get any catalogs? Given my purchase history, I should think that I would have been flushed from the marketing distribution lists many years ago, and yet I still get piles and piles of glossy paper.

The funniest thing is that a number of the titles are from retail establishments I don't even shop at all. L.L. Bean, Victoria's Secret, Harry & David, Gump's, and Garnet Hill are places I never visit. Then there's the incongruous issue of "Solutions" - a place that sounds like a money laundering ring. If I ever did shop these places, it was years ago and I cannot even remember the occasion. Even for the places I do shop such as Sephora, Athleta, J. Crew, Bloomingdale's, and the other department stores, does my purchase history really merit multiple issues of the same content?

Looking at the pile, I'm ashamed to admit that I barely even glanced at any of this collateral this season. I didn't have a lot of money to spend, and for gift-giving I either made my presents or knew exactly what I was going to buy. Would any catalog, even in multiples, persuade me otherwise?

And, when you consider the expenditure in natural resources on all of these, the totals are staggering - especially for just one person in one household.

For me, the creulest joke was the array of catalogs from the Williams-Sonoma brands. I was laid off from Williams-Sonoma last January, along with almost 1400 other people, due to a shrinking market share and revenue losses. The fact that I received fourteen catalogs from their brands alone leaves a gigantic pit in my stomach. I didn't even flip through any of them.

I hefted the entire pile down to my recycling bin this afternoon and was very happy to have the weight (almost 20 pounds of paper) out of my apartment.

So how do we become paper-less households and paper-less shoppers? I feel like the printed catalog is becoming more and more of a waste, especially as companies are facing hard times. I know there are theories about the power of the catalog, etc, but does any of that hold up in a society driven more and more by ecommerce?

I'm just not sure the waste is worth it any longer. What do you think?


J. Crew Fall Catalog Theatre!

Okay, you knew it was coming. The new J. Crew catalog arrived in mailboxes last week, which of course means that Poetic & Chic has to do something about it. Interesting to note that the expensive atmospheric shots are gone and almost the whole thing is shot in a studio...maybe they got my message about the Spring issue?

As usual, there's a lot to love and a lot to question. But, that's the fun of J.Crew Catalog Theatre... I'll let the pictures tell the story! All pictures are from J.Crew and scanned by me from the catalog. They're thumbnails, so feel free to enlarge...

Subscribers! Please click through to site for best viewing.





J. Crew "America" - Chilly & Boring

J.Crew America - Yr Doin It WrongSubscribers - please click through for best viewing!

The first of a guaranteed plethora of spring J.Crew catalogs arrived in my mailbox this week. I immediately paused because of the cover, screaming "America" in red and blue, across a plain black field.

I thought: "Wow, J.Crew is really brining home the Obama-economic stimulus-bring it to retail-optimism in a big way..." I mean, gorgeous couple in a vintage convertible, iconic panorama of the Golden Gate Bridge, and then... "AMERICA" - red A. The first true retail page-turner of 2009 has arrived in my mailbox and I can now breathe a little easier. Nothing has changed, we all still shop, and nothing says American happiness like classic stylings of J.Crew...right?

Nice work, J.Crew! Way to work that fading heartbeat of retail into a stylishly patriotic consumerism. Why not just light up each issue with a neon sign saying: "Spend your stimulus dollars here in red-A America...with the American brand of all-American style: J.Crew". In fact, they probably should have titled it "AMERICA*" with the asterix explained in the footnote as: "J.Crew is not a bunch of crazy right-wingers, we're just preppy, icon-loving, national retailers looking to capitalize on the current new-administration optimism. Don't blame us, we're trying..."

I dunno, I'm just sayin'.

Compelling, but not exactly original. In fact, I'd expect this kind of thing from L.L. Bean, Kenneth Cole, or even DKNY - brands that have always gone after the American heartbeat like a Big Three car company, but J.Crew? Hmmm.

What I found inside the catalog was an equally unoriginal grouping of "iconic" fashion spreads, made all the more disappointing for me because they were shot in San Francisco. Within the front cover, they try to explain the shoots by saing that San Francisco is the "all-American city" while the other spreads were equally American-themed. Unfortunately, the five-oddly disparate "stories" composing the catalog don't live up to the narrative generated by the "AMERICA" cover.

FYI: This girl is freezing.

Can this model get a jacket please?She ain't from around these parts.






But back to the San Francisco story in particular - the reason this shoot fails is because the light, summery, tropical clothing and sherbert-hued palette is totally lost in the perpetually frosty mid-winter air of the city by the bay. March catalogs are shot in November-December, and while San Francisco doesn't have snow on the ground, the temperature isn't exactly spring-ish. So, the models look forced and uncomfortable throughout. We San Franciscans don't run around in sleeveless tops (at least not without a handy jacket nearby,) or short shorts and tank tops, especially not on the wind-swept peaks of a cable car or the Marin Headlands.

J.Crew March 2009

Vogue June 2008There are two shots that were particularly familiar: one below the Golden Gate Bridge, and another on Highway 1 up in Mendocino, overlooking the ocean. Both these locations have featured prominently in previous editorials over the years, in fact, they're kind of the go-to spots for ubiquitous San Fran/No-Cal imagery. These were particularly familiar because of Vogue's editorial last June featuring Pierce Brosnan and Daria Werbowy in a "James Bond-meets-Hitchcock" spread.

The images are so similar that even the clothing looks alike, the cars are the same, and the gestures between the figures is almost identical.

J.Crew March 2009

Vogue June 2008The inclusion of these locations and shot set-ups here begs the question: is there really nothing new to do in the catalog world other than ape the big publications? It is indeed sad that J.Crew couldn't come up with anything more uniquely attuned to their particular brand of sportswear.

The section that I did find interesting and original (and easy on the eyes) was the "Great American Road Trip" section showcasing the new menswear. (Sadly these beautiful spreads crop up after this first incongruous San Francisco one, as well as multiple pages of recycled material from previous issues.) The Route 66 landscapes and classic menswear fits perfectly with the story arc begun on the cover with the two gorgeous folks in the vintage convertible. Too bad the story got stopped and then started again so many pages later when I'd already lost interest.

J.Crew March 2009 - The road trip is the best part.

So what's my point? J.Crew began this catalog with an interesting concept: create a story and merchandise around it. Since magazines and retail are both feeling the bite of this economic downturn, I think it only makes sense that retailers start to be more editorial, while magazines start to be more product-focused. The sooner the retailers get this format correct, the sooner they can start mixing entertainment with sales, and the sooner they will get a sales lift.

Too bad J.Crew's attempt is so mixed up and ubiquitous it looses it's stylistic punch.

All images scanned by Poetic & Chic.


J.Crew in the Mailbox

My mail carrier is a unique creature. Whomever this person is, (and I no longer think its the nice Mexican lady who fancied a little "shot of tequila" after noticing our new  apartment mailbox...or maybe it is?) they like to crumple and shove. I thought that mail carriers were taught the proper way to fold large mail around smaller mail, and to just keep things tidy and organized.

My mailbox is the antithesis of the textbook orderliness preached by the USPS. Where there should be neat folds and smooth magazine bends, I get a hurricane's detritus in a 6 by 12 box. Dirty penny savers, wadded up coupon packets, postcards for useless services, Chinese food menus, and every other type of tree-killing paper missal wadded into the corners of my box as though they were being used to stop a strong wind from seeping in the cracks. That's just the junk mail. Proper mail, such as bills, magazines and catalogs also emerge crumpled and ripped - I cannot remember the last time Vanity Fair emerged from my box with nary a scratch. And isn't that a horrible killjoy? I do love a pristine magazine...

But, this mining for mail only makes the mailbox gems all the more exciting to open up. A mangled J.Crew cover, for instance, always yields sensory delights within. It's true, I often wish J.Crew would send me less catalogs because they are so evil and full of beautiful temptation, but they have me now so I suppose the catalogs will keep coming. Good thing too because they are really lovely - especially this latest one shot in Prague.

Vintagey, romantic, perfectly run-down and tattered, but full of pops of modern color and luxe constructions. So very insouciant, so very J.Crew.

These outfits are such perfection for Fall. Okay, so I have a thing for the mustard yellow that's out these days, especially in jacket form, and here I cannot decide between the long version and the peacoat. The peacoat look is so stinkin' chic I can't stand it - so Ali McGraw in Love Story... I don't even much like Ali McGraw, but I love this. I also love the flared jeans that promise "legs for days" - I could use a pair of those. Especially with the adorable red jacket.

File under: "I'll take one in every color"...