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Madewell Is Launching Menswear

Plus, what to expect when J.Crew relaunches in September.
Madewell Fall 2018. Photo: Courtesy

Madewell Fall 2018. Photo: Courtesy

During an earnings call with investors and analysts Tuesday, in the midst of outlining plans for J.Crew's imminent relaunch, CEO Jim Brett dropped some major news: Madewell is launching menswear.

He did not specify when, but based on the timeline of the other initiatives he mentioned, it will likely be within the next year. Following that launch, he predicted, "Madewell will become the leading premium denim brand in the world."

With Madewell, J.Crew effectively cracked the code on what millennial women want to shop, the environment in which they want to shop it, the prices they want to pay and the campaign imagery that entices them. It regularly soars past J.Crew brand in terms of sales growth; in the second quarter of fiscal 2018 alone, Madewell comparable sales rose a whopping 28 percent. According to Brett, this put Madewell on the path towards becoming a $1 billion brand.

It seemed inevitable that the brand might try to extend that success into menswear, and it's smart given that there isn't really a comparable option for dudes. It will be interesting to see how the company applies the Madewell aesthetic to men's clothing, but we're already picturing Timothée Chalamet lookalikes in loose-fitting polos. Or will the brand go in more of a streetwear direction? Will they encourage unisex dressing by mixing menswear pieces in with women's in stores or have separate stores entirely a la J.Crew? I digress.

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During that same call, Brett outlined several new details regarding the official relaunch of J.Crew, which will be revealed on Sept. 10. We've summarized some key takeaways below:

  • Increased model diversity
  • More extended sizing to open the brand up to the "over 50 percent of Americans who cannot shop our brands" (Yep, you read that correctly, and that is a quote.)
  • New "sub brands" for different aesthetics, i.e. one for "New England prep," another for "West Coast" style, another for "tailored wear-to-work" options, and a "newly designed J.Crew collection" for more fashion-forward pieces
  • A wider range of price points
  • "Quality you expect from J.Crew"
  • Global wholesale expansion: J.Crew is working with top department store chains in Canada, Mexico, Germany, the U.K., France, Switzerland and the Netherlands, as well as e-tailers like Zolando, Zappos, ASOS, Net-a-Porter, Mr Porter, Stitch Fix and Shopbop.
  • Sustainability improvements: It's working with Fair Trade USA and other organization to achieve sustainability certifications and ensure it's using the most sustainable fabrics and that its production processes aren't harming the environment. It's also working on determining the best process for collecting and recycling clothes from customers.
  • Advocacy: It plans to ramp up corporate donorship to companies like Human Rights Campaign, Girls Inc. and Charity Water.
  • New retail concepts: It will "test exciting new concepts" tailored to local communities.
  • New rewards program

In Q2, J.Crew comparable sales rose 1 percent, marking the first time in four years it saw positive comp sales growth. Brett emphasized that, going forward, J.Crew won't try to be fast-fashion or direct-to-consumer, but instead "define a new retail model."

And if it doesn't work? At least he's got Madewell.

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