If you're confused about what's going on with Jones New York, you are not the only one. Comments on the most brand's most recent Instagram post, from 28 weeks ago, read, "when are you coming back??? I need you!" and "I need you back in Macy's." Indeed, the department store staple brand has a committed fan base for its classic American pieces, but needed a serious update, said SVP Design and Creative Director George Sharp at a preview in New York City on Monday. After a dormant year, the brand is ready to unveil its vision for the future with a sportswear-focused lifestyle collection debuting for fall 2016.
"It had gotten very formulaic and repetitive and I was there towards the tail end of the prior incarnation," he said, having joined the brand in 2012 after roles at St. John, Ellen Tracy and Escada. A private equity firm called Sycamore Partners bought the Jones Group for $2.2 billion in April 2014 and split the group up into smaller companies, including Jones New York. The following January, Sycamore announced plans to shut down the brand's wholesale business and U.S. retail locations by the end of 2015. But in April, Authentic Brands Group purchased Jones New York with the intention to rebuild the brand.
"When they closed it down, horrifying though it was at the time — to come back and finish what we are trying do and hit reset on a 40-year-old brand is amazing, because it doesn’t happen very often," said Sharp. First order of business? Streamline the many different Jones lines including Sport and Signature into one brand under the name Jones New York, complete with a new logo. Then it was time to figure out what the customer still wanted from the brand, and what needed to be let go.
"It had gotten stodgy, it had gotten serious, so were able to lighten it up and really give her more fashion that is appropriate to her," said Sharp. "She doesn't want basic, she wants interest, fashion, novelty…. it has to have a subtle twist and a reason to buy it." Jones New York was originally founded in the 1970s to cater to the working woman and is still associated with office wear even though many women don't wear suits to work anymore. They want pieces that will work for every occasion and every day of the week, depending on how they style it. Though the 35- to 54-year-old age bracket is the brand's key demo, Sharp says it's not about age, but aesthetic. "They all want to be more relevant, they want to be more modern."
That said, the core Jones New York style is staying the same. "We always say we are rooted in classics, she’s not avant garde, she's not going to be wearing Junya Watanabe or anything," said Sharp. "She wants updates on those classics, so what is it? What is the new trench coat, what is the new peacoat, what is a great turtleneck? What I'd love to stand for is: if a woman thinks, 'Okay, I need a great white shirt, a great turtleneck, a great pencil skirt,' Jones should be front of mind."
The updated Jones New York incorporates more fashion trends, but in a way that won't alienate the core shopper. That means, for example, a bohemian print will always be on a black or charcoal background to ease mixing — "She doesn't want to look like she came from Coachella" — and a statement furry vest will have a ribbed back for comfort. Sharp and his team of four designers were able to play with a wider range of higher quality fabrications including lightweight denim, crepe de chine, gauzy weaves, textured georgette, ribbed knits, faux suede, faux fur and shiny satin.
And the accessories — brand new for the company — are made with practicality in mind. "You can tell working women designed these bags," said Sharp, pointing out tons of pockets in a tote. The wide range of footwear styles included metallic shoes, Chelsea boots and pumps.
When asked how he thinks the brand's loyal shoppers will react to the new collection, Sharp said he sees the proof from his own team: they are asking about staff discounts. "That's when I know it's serious," he said. So far retailers who have seen the new collection have agreed with the changes. "The comments we've had is that it still looks like Jones but it's more modern, it's like Jones but with a face-lift, it's like Jones but more relevant," said Sharp. "All those things were great because it's what we wanted to hear. We had a loyal customer base that we love and want to keep but we also have to expand as well."
Another thing that isn't changing is the price point: tops, bottoms and dresses range from $40 to $150, flats and heels are $69 to $139, boots are $150 to $199 and outerwear is the highest bracket, from $340 to $550. And Authentic Brands Group has plans to keep expanding Jones New York beyond wholesale accounts through monobrand shops (there are currently 39 in Canada but none in the U.S.) and marketing campaigns that reflect the upgraded brand.
The company also plans to launch e-commerce at JNY.com, making it easier than ever for the brand's classic, polished fans to stock up on the classic, polished pieces they know and love — and finally made with her modern lifestyle in mind.