J.Crew's Vancouver store now open
Last night was full of firsts. Not only did popular New York-based clothing retailer J. Crew unlock it doors the evening before the grand opening of their first storefront in Western Canada, they also revealed the first opportunity to see, touch and feel their coveted menswear line. The two-storey location at 1088 Robson St. was chosen to be the first location in Canada that carries the men's collection.
Intrigued? Look for Wallace & Barnes and 484 Japanese selvedge denim and Italian cashmere Thomas Mason shirts alongside coastal basics like striped nautical tees and rumpled shorts in navy or butter yellow (sure sell-outs).
It was also the first time followers of the brand could contextualize the direction J. Crew is taking. Gone are the plainly-preppy looks from yesteryear. The packed house was treated to business casual hemlines in bright colours and floral patterns, summer patio-weight dress, cropped trousers and yes, upstairs, the Ludlow suit every boy should own.
The suit is so popular it now has its own store at 50 Hudson in New York City. Made of subtly textured wool from Italy, menswear design director Frank Muytjens was quick to draw me over to the suit's skinny-but-not-too-skinny spring tie counterparts in matching fabric as the understated alternative to classic glossy. Divided into two rooms by look, the men's floor has something for even the most conservative XY.
"We're so glad we're here. I've been looking out on the streets and I think it is a great fit with the guys in Vancouver. I think they get the mix of the high and low. He can wear a suit with a shirt and tie, but maybe it's a little less serious, like a chambray shirt. To add a pop of colour I love the tie with the electric orange stripe going through or a bright sock is nice to wear with a suit and a long wingtip," said the clearly excited (and sockless) designer.
Muytjens looked around the "casual room" and explained why their designs have such a loyal following - persistence and consistency.
"It's our job to make our guys' shopping experience as easy as possible. They hate trying things on and that's why we name all of our garments. Once he likes something, he can come back and buy a different fabrication and he doesn't have to try it on again. I think guys get thrown off by big change — every season to come out with a new line. We take smaller steps than we do with women's."
Tom Mora, design director of the women's line, picked up where Muytjens left off.
"The nice thing about our clothes, you can take any piece and make them casual or dressy depending on the shoe you where, the top or jewelry you wear, the bag you have. But it never feels overdone. "
The lower space is an explosion of clear, crisp colours and patterns — sea-foam cashmere sweaters, solid pink pencil skirts and anchor-print blouses next to soon-to-be-snatched-up neon jeans — ideal pieces for layering, colour-blocking and transitioning from daytime to evening. Every item is intended to become a wardrobe staple, right down to the handbags and jewelry.
The wait is finally over; J. Crew opens April 25 to undoubtedly feverish crowds.
The Ludlow suit
The menswear wall
Menswear fabric ties
The Ankle Toothpick jean
All photos Kelsey Klassen. You can follow Kelsey on Twitter @kelseyklassen.