J.Crew launched its solid, reliable swimwear range in 1989. It was perhaps never known for this category; rather, swim was just always there, with a little more variety than your typical mid-price retailer. And beginning on Tuesday, it will offer even more variety: It's launching Playa, a more affordable line of swimwear with prices starting at $22.50 for bottoms and going up to $54.50 for a one-piece. The styles available are perhaps a little more playful and colorful than some of those in its main swimwear line, with lots of stripes, florals, polka dots and pink. They're available both in stores and online.
The question is: Why? "I can say that J.Crew Playa will offer customers a slightly skimpier, slightly sexier variety of modern, well-priced and well-crafted swimwear that's still in the aesthetic the brand is known for," a rep for the brand tells Fashionista. "While the line still appeals to J.Crew women consumers, we definitely had millennial women in mind with the cheekier silhouettes." And the editorial imagery, we'd bet, which looks straight out of an Instagram gallery of vacation plandids. All that's missing is that "out of office" caption.
One of the many wacky things millennials do more than other generations is travel. They're statistically choosing to spend more on experiences than products, and with plane tickets becoming more affordable and Instagram driving people to the prettiest places in which to document themselves posing on beaches, pool floats and yachts, it's obvious why.
Where swimwear fits into all of this is that even though it's a product, it's one that many experiences necessitate. And with Instagram comes a need for variety. Presumably, that thinking helped lead to J.Crew Playa. There's also the simple fact that not everyone wants to spend around $100 for a swimsuit, which is what a regular J.Crew one-piece or bikini set would cost. That's also the price point of many of the direct-to-consumer swimwear brands that have popped up in recent years, against which J.Crew is competing. It may also be trying to fill the void left by fellow mass retailer Victoria's Secret, which exited swim in 2016. However, Victoria's Secret's sister brand VS Pink offers swimwear at a price point more comparable to Playa.
We still wonder why this line is being sold at J.Crew and not Madewell, which typically offers a lower price point and appeals to the younger customers J.Crew seems to be going after with the line, and the answer for that could simply be that Madewell is doing fine while J.Crew is struggling — and bringing in some millennial customers for resort season is one way it's trying to turn things around.
See the full, admittedly cute J.Crew Playa range below.