In 2012, when rumors first began floating that J.Crew was planning to open its first Brooklyn location in Williamsburg, we (and the rest of the Internet) couldn’t help but poke fun at the prospect of the retailer catering to the neighborhood’s hipster stereotypes. Since then, I’m pretty sure making fun of hipsters has finally stopped being funny and the Williamsburg J.Crew has actually opened at 234 Wythe Avenue.
The store keeps a safe distance from Williamsburg’s main drag, Bedford Avenue, as well as modern hipster clichés. In fact, it’s not very hipstery at all.
There are, of course, a few special, Brooklyny elements: The space has an industrial feel thanks to lots of unfinished wood, cement floors and exposed beams, and features collaborations with local artists including a floral mural with a 3D collage by Naomi Reis in the women’s entryway and a “living wall” of plants in the separate men’s entryway. The fitting rooms are also unique, featuring “custom cement, silica and salt” stools by AMMA Studios and curtains made from moving blankets (literally those comforter-like things movers throw around your furniture). There are also five-foot-tall fake palm trees everywhere. Overall, it’s pleasant place to shop.
However, the store feels like it’s catering more to Brooklyn’s families than its hipsters (the former hipsters that now have real jobs and can actually afford to live in Williamsburg, perhaps?). For almost every adult-size mannequin, there is a kid-size mannequin wearing an equally stylish Crewcuts outfit and the store features a noticeably large Crewcuts section.
The product for women is stylish-cozy: There is more cashmere loungewear per square foot than I’ve ever seen, including not only sweaters, but also pants. There is also a lot of denim — both from J.Crew’s in-house denim line and cool California-based premium denim line Point Sur. The outerwear is casual and oversized, the handbags include classic, simple leather totes. Unfussy ankle boots and cool sneakers could be found in the footwear section. The color palette is overwhelmingly neutral — lots of cream, navy, dark green, black and grey, in particular. It would pretty much be my ideal wardrobe if I were a young, attractive mom who lived in Williamsburg. (In fact, it's pretty much my ideal wardrobe now so apparently that's what I'm going for at the moment.)
The employees, also, were not all hipsters: The nice woman who politely asked me twice to let her know if I need help was definitely over 50, and perhaps past retirement age.
I think what struck me most was that aside from the kid’s clothes, nothing skewed very young. The unemployed hipsters Williamsburg has become known for certainly couldn’t afford $250 cashmere sweaters or $288 Japanese selvedge denim. But perhaps the fact that J.Crew is selling these things is more a sign of Williamsburg’s changing demographic than any cluelessness on the part of the retailer. The store is located near the high-rent waterfront in what is arguably Williamsburg's most gentrified area. As you can see from this U.S. Census map, the area also has the neighborhood's highest median income, which was around $75,000 in 2012 (and is likely much higher now). And, I did spot three women with babies in the 25 minutes I spent in the store (though that could have been due to the fact that it was noon on a Monday).
Those in search of lower price tags can just head to the epic new Urban Outfitters a couple of blocks away.