I didn’t make it to the J.Crew 40th anniversary party on Tuesday night because of another engagement, although several people tried their darndest. “They have seating, I know how you love that,” was the pitch, but in the end there just wasn’t time.
I’m not a big party person, and I don’t care about The Strokes, despite growing up in New York during indie sleaze. But I was a little sad not to witness campaign star Diane Keaton posing for photos in her turtleneck (super sweaty weather be damned), and former creative director Jenna Lyons dancing in her midriff with girlfriend Cass Bird. It will probably be the quote-unquote coolest party of the week—that we know about. Credit goes to C.E.O. Libby Wadle, who has put together a team (including designers Brendon Babenzien and Olympia Gayot) that has a better sense than most of how to grab the attention of coastal elites. (Who, by the way, you need to attract first in order to reach the masses—it’s that trickle-down marketing effect.)
I tell you this because J.Crew isn’t really a Fashion Week brand. (TPG, an investor in Puck, is also an owner of J.Crew. Jeez, I really thought my investor disclosures were done when I left BoF!) Sure, they’ve done various presentations over the years, but the runway is primarily for the high end of the market. And that creates a tension: Most of the interesting things happening in U.S. fashion over the past decade haven’t happened at the high-end. In the 2000s, the U.S. backed a whole generation of young designers aiming to compete with the European brands—Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, Band of Outsiders—but as it became clear that the model was faulty, fewer labels emerged with hopes of being the next Marc Jacobs (who sold his company to LVMH in 1997 and designed Louis Vuitton’s women’s collection for 16 years).