Taking in Frank Muytjens’s fall 2011 collection for J.Crew, I came across an old friend, a fashion designer. She asked me what I thought and my answer went like this: “I like it. I mean, it’s smart…and boring, but it’s J.Crew, so it should be boring.” Her response was much more thoughtful, and more telling. She reminded me that Middle America and your average guy need some help dressing, and J. Crew is providing them the right kind of help. And she’s right.
To this end, Muytjens has focused on separates in a workwear-dominated collection inspired by the Lewis Hine photographs of the Empire State Building’s construction. “Fabrics out of context,” the designer noted, “Chino, with a bit of denim,” he added, pointing to a handsome blue trouser that effectively blended the two textures.
This is a collection that begs you to mix and match. It's a little of this, a little of that, some wide-leg chinos, in case you are fat. That’s right: wide-leg. While the apparel is “predominantly still skinny,” says Muytjens, “I think it's nice to include a wider chino at the same time." I won’t wear it (I cannot remember the last time I wore a chino), but I’m on board. As I was with the wider leg jeans sported by another model—the first piece that caught my eye.
Compared to last fall, this is a thicker, looser, more layered collection. I noted a Navajo influenced pattern that made a Christmas sweater significantly less meh. Brown, thick wale cords were rolled up high, unveiling sock-less ankles in normative oxford lace ups. In terms of palette, navies were dominant. The standout among these was a flannel shirts, with two breast pockets, detailed by white buttons.
It’s these thoughtful little details that underlined the “smart” in this collection, as opposed to the “boring.” Referring to a topcoat, on top of the jean/chinos, Muytjens summed up the success of his endeavor: “It’s hefty and masculine, but also sophisticated. You’re not going to be seen from ten blocks away.”
**Photos courtesy of J.Crew.