our creative director, Jenna Lyons, shares the inspiration behind her outfit for the 2012 Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum
Jenna and head women’s designer Tom Mora walk the red carpet
Pink Lady: “I felt I had to do something in shocking pink because that’s what Schiaparelli is known for. I sketched the design for this skirt on the back of a piece of paper during a meeting one day about two weeks before the ball. Honda, our patternmaker, draped and stitched the satin right here in the office.”
Shock Factor: “There’s a peplum underneath because I wanted that articulated silhouette I had seen on the pages of Schiaparelli’s Shocking Life. The bow at the waist has wire in it to hold its shape and keep it nice and stiff.”
Above: Jenna’s design sketch; Shocking Life by Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli. Below: details from a Schiaparelli design from spring 1947.
Denim Diehard: “I didn’t want to wear duchesse silk satin with something sparkly or pearls. I am who I am—so I took it down a notch with denim. We pulled a J.Crew jean jacket and then had it fit and re-tailored to raise the waistband. I’m also not really wearing a shirt underneath—the collar and cuffs were custom-made by my custom shirtmaker and were stitched into the jacket.”
So much more than your average bracelet. We love this wraparound style from Indego Africa, a nonprofit project dedicated to providing women artisans in Rwanda the opportunity to sell their beautifully handcrafted pieces to the rest of the world while supporting themselves and their families. And that’s just the beginning: All proceeds are used to create business and literacy programs that encourage entrepreneurship and empower the artisans to become independent businesswomen. These exclusive-to-us bracelets are made from Dutch wax fabric (renowned for its durability and considered a symbol of African solidarity) locally sourced from the markets of Kigali, which the women visit each week to look for the most vibrant colors that perfectly capture the spirit of summer. The final touch: Each bracelet is individually signed by the artist so it’s absolutely unique—much like its story.
An artisan carefully measures a section of Dutch wax fabric.
How the pieces come together.
A group of women pose with some of their finished products—colorful necklaces.
When it comes to summer shoes, Soludos has proven there’s life beyond flip-flops—and the name, a combination of the Spanish words sol (sun) and salud (cheers), is the perfect qualifier. When founder and designer Nick Brown moved stateside, he set out to recreate the simple, laid-back espadrilles he wore growing up—the ones sold in the markets and along the beaches of the Mediterranean: “We use authentic weaving and dyeing techniques, so they’re just like their international counterparts.” The jute-soled, eco-friendly styles have a few special twists, like three exclusive-to-us colors and fabrics. And since they’re the price of just a few cervezas, we recommend stocking up on more than one pair. Salud!
Clockwise from top left:
Founder Nick Brown shows off his espadrilles; inspiration for the Soludos for J.Crew collaboration; A Perfect Summer Day shot in Montauk, New York.
A few of our favorite things to come out of the South: jazz, mint juleps and the unofficial fabric of summer—seersucker. First gaining popularity in the U.S. for gentlemen to beat the heat below the Mason-Dixon Line, it’s made its welcome way up the coast into the closets of New England neo-prep sets and now, our beach totes. We just couldn’t resist splashing these stripes—in smoldering charcoal, sunny citron and classic baby blue—into our swim collection. To create the perfect poolside-pinup fit, we outfitted our one-piece with figure-flattering stretch fabric, a supportive underwire and tie-and-go halter straps. Bring on the sultry days of summer…
we enlisted some 770 staffers to decorate their own pair of Soludos®— what started out as blank canvases ended up being very stylish works of art. here’s how they chose to express themselves…
Clockwise from top left:
“A painterly sailor stripe is classic J.Crew. I swiped on this really great indigo fabric dye, then I added bleach to give it a faded look at the creases to mimic worn-in denim (of course!).”
—Aubrey, our denim designer
“Picasso always donned these shoes! With a Sharpie in hand, I thought of him as I drew these Spanish tile patterns. Then I decorated them with bright embroidery thread.”
—Tracy, our prop stylist
“I sewed a chain of rhinestones onto the soles of mine. My inspiration speaks for itself!”
—Allison, one of our women’s stylists
“I think the accents on gold-leaf teacups are beautiful, so I painted the toes and soles of my Soludos this rich metallic color. It offsets the red perfectly, for a fun reinterpretation.”
—Jenny, one of our web designers
“A doodled version, using a Sharpie, of the anchor print we used throughout our women’s summer collection.”
—Aaron, one of our women’s designers
“Alison and I love this peach color. We just brushed on watercolor paint to get the tie-dyed look.”
—Catherine (with Alison), two of our web designers
Nick Brown, the mastermind behind Soludos®, gives us a peek at some of his design inspirations (we’re dreaming of colorful cars, warm-weather destinations and Mediterranean markets)
“I love this picture of Copacabana Beach in the ’70s—few do summer better than the Cariocas (natives of Rio de Janeiro). The classic colors of the Volkswagen Bugs here really impacted my collection for J.Crew—I don’t think anyone should ever shy away from a pop of color in the summertime.”
“I took the above snap with a few friends in Montauk a couple of summers ago. It always takes me back to long, spontaneous beach weekends…There’s an understated but cool style to this place in particular.”
“Here are some old photos of espadrilles being made by artisans in Barcelona—these authentic styles are the ones that inspired me to start Soludos. We’ve updated them slightly by using more contemporary cuts and fabrics.”
The great tuxedo wearers through the years: Cary Grant, James Bond, Jack Donaghy…One thing they have in common? They didn’t rent. Follow suit and finally bid farewell to the days of cheap tuxedo-rental shops stuffed with ill-fitting cuts and shiny-pattern cummerbunds. Instead, heed our stylist Jack’s advice: “Spend on a quality tux. Even if you only trot it out once a year, it’s the wisest wardrobe investment a man can make.” Our modern yet timeless Ludlow tuxedo fits the bill in fine Italian wool from Italy’s Lanificio di Tollegno mill with bespoke details (a satin stripe down the leg and pickstitching inside the jacket), all for under a cool grand. It’s your perfect excuse to make sure “black tie optional” is never an option.
Our tuxedo all-stars: Cary Grant in the 1946 movie Notorious; Roger Moore as James Bond; Alec Baldwin as 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy.
You might have heard how in love we are with Madewell here at J.Crew. Quick style backstory: Madewell started in 1937 as a denim brand, and now, besides being jeans makers, they’re our go-to for easy dresses, indigo tees and cool scarves. Here’s something new that’s making a cameo in our closets this summer. On a weekend trip to Los Angeles, Joyce, one of Madewell’s accessories designers, snapped an iPhone picture of a few palm trees against the azure California sky. She brought the image back to her fellow designer, Nichole, who hand collaged a turn-of-the-century map of LA over it. “We found this vintage atlas with all these amazing maps,” says Nichole. “The simple typography adds a nice graphic element over the vibrant blues of the snapshot.” The final product is a truly unique scarf worth building an entire outfit around.
A snapshot of Nichole’s sketchbook—and a peek at how it all came together.
in honor of Mother’s Day, we’re taking a look back at a few of our own loving (and surprisingly stylish) mothers…
From the top:
“This picture of my parents was taken in Rumont, France, in 1977 when my mom was pregnant with my older sister (she always says that she never felt happier or more beautiful than when she was pregnant with me and my sister).” —Julie, web creative connoisseur
“This picture is from a vacation in Big Sur, California—I love it not only for the poncho but also because it’s a rare photo of my mom with curly hair.” —Catherine, web design darling
“My mum reading to me, my sister and our neighbor (all with our fingers stuck thoughtfully in our mouths, of course).” —Coco, copy maestro
“My mom on vacation at Round Hill in Jamaica, 1970-something. Love the bright headscarf.” —Halsey, writing wizard
“This photo was taken in 1979, about four years after my parents were married. My mom had just attended my dad’s graduation from Rutgers’ banking school, and they were catching a train into NYC to celebrate.” —Elinor, copy savant
“I’m around 1 in this photo; my mom told me that I’m digging into the frosting at my cousin’s birthday party because my grandmother wouldn’t let me have any frosting at my own birthday party that year!” —Matt, catalog connoisseur
“This was taken in Thailand when my mom and I were traveling around Asia. I like that we’re both wearing matching tourist tees and athletic socks—so ’90s!” —Jenny, web design whiz
“My mom in the sixth grade—I think she looks so cute, especially with the little bow and jumper she has on.” —Melissa, email organizer extraordinaire
“I’m pretty sure this was taken on my parents’ honeymoon—I love the idea of my mom putting on makeup for my dad! I only wish she had saved that dress.” —Alison, web design wonder
our stores are filled with sparkling surprises—just ask our visual guru,
Glenn, who sources quartz crystals for the jewelry displays. we sat down with the
interiors expert to learn more about these gorgeous gems.
“Most of the quartz we use comes from Brazil—I think this part of the world produces the nicest specimens.* They form over thousands and thousands of years and come in a variety of colors like pink, purple and yellow. The color of the crystal depends on the environments to which it is exposed.”
*Hint: You can buy them at ABC Home!
“We wanted to use a mix of clear and smoky quartz for our jewelry cases. They provide a neutral background for our colorful pieces and allow us to really stage each item. Also, they’re totally beautiful!”
our May crewcuts catalog has finally hit mailboxes—and it’s earning major props.* we sat down with our star set stylist, Tracy, to talk blueprints, building blocks and the artist behind the design.
*yes, that pun was intended.
“Throughout his career, Italian artist Enzo Mari published these blueprints so that people could create their own pieces based on his framework. He suggested using two-by-two lumber because it’s really affordable and accessible.”
“Mari was all about rational design—he wasn’t interested in creating anything flashy or over-the-top. He was really intrigued by self-assembly and simple shapes. Nothing too fancy.”
The finished product:
“It was such a fun shoot! We followed his instructions while adding our own twists—I was inspired by the kind of furniture you’d find in a French primary school. The entire set was an homage to Mari: the walls, the floorboards and the chairs. I think we really let our imaginations guide us.”
Not all bags are created equal. Founded in 1999 by brothers Chris and Kirk Bray, each of Billykirk’s rugged, minimal pieces is constructed by hand in Pennsylvania—in the heart of Amish country—using master-craftsman techniques. As our men’s accessories designer Addi puts it: “The integrity and artistry is incredible—a throwback to the days when things were made with so much care and attention.” Crafted in vegetable-tanned leather from one of America’s oldest and most renowned tanneries, this satchel’s a choice work bag—large enough to hold a 15” computer and tough enough to withstand coffee spills and subway doors. In with the old, we say…
Chris and Kirk (aka the Brothers Bray) show their wares.
Forget “borrowed from the boys.” This is one style we’re never giving back. The third piece from the gentleman’s trifecta of black-tie dressing—the tuxedo shirt—is arguably the sexiest thing in a woman’s wardrobe. Immaculately tailored in pure Italian cotton from Thomas Mason, the English mill that’s been outfitting gentlemen since 1796, it strikes just the right balance of timeless elegance and come-hither allure. But we can’t take all the credit—we took a cue from tuxedo-donning ladies throughout the ages, from 1930s silver-screen icon Marlene Dietrich to Helmut Newton’s sleekly suited models of the 1970s. Our stylist, Gayle, tells us how to give it an of-the-moment spin: “Pair it with skinny white pants and our citrus-hued Viv flats—and push up the sleeves for a sultry, rumpled summer look.” Like we said, we’re never giving it back.
one of our supertalented stylists, Allison, gave our men’s baseball cap a chic makeover with a swipe of paint. it resulted in some pretty cool pattern play—so cool, in fact, that the hat ended up in the pages of our May Style Guide. here’s how you can D.I.Y.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
A baseball cap (like this)
primer (like this)
acrylic paint (Allison prefers this kind by Liquitex)
(All art supplies can be found at dickblick.com or at your local art supplies store.)
Step 1: Measure 1” away from the center seam on both sides of the hat. Make sure you measure underneath the bill and the back of the hat so that the stripe extends as far as the eye can see.
Step 2: Tape it off. Since the hat is round, cut notches in the tape so it will stay in a straight line around the curves (this is very important!). Make sure the adhesive is firmly stuck to the surface of the hat before moving on.
Step 3: Using your sponge brush, paint on the primer—it gives the hat a rubbery, nonporous texture, which takes paint really well.
Step 4: Blend the paint colors of your choice in a cup until you get the shade you’re going for. (Here, Allison mixed white, teal green and hunter green.)
Step 5: Paint! Then, let dry, preferably overnight.
Step 6: When you’re sure that it’s completely dry, gently peel the tape off.
Hat’s off! The finished product.
D.I.Y. obsessed like Allison? Check out one of her favorite sites, Design Sponge, for more inspiration.
she’s his muse, style adviser and all-around BFF—Vanessa Traina and Joseph Altuzarra show us why it’s great to have friends in high (fashion) places…
From top: a mood board and picture of Vanessa in Joseph’s studio; Vanessa in Altuzarra for Barney’s fall ’11 campaign; Vanessa and Joseph on Vogue Daily; Vanessa modeling the Altuzarra spring/summer ’09 lookbook; a portrait of Vanessa in Joseph’s studio.
Read Vanessa’s interview with Joseph about his CFDA win, design inspiration and ultimate love of cake here.