With the official launch of its e-commerce site last week, the four-year-old Madewell brand has “arrived” and is ready for a new growth phase.
That’s the message from the parent company, J. Crew Group, and its chairman and chief executive officer, Millard “Mickey” Drexler. “There is nothing in fashion that is not always a work in progress. However, we feel we’ve progressed enough to commit capital and a growth plan to the business,” Drexler said in an interview Tuesday on Madewell and its new Web site. “We’ve been through four intense, creative years of putting together something we are very passionate about. The collection is ready and the way we want it to be.”
Madewell.com actually quietly made its debut May 27, without any marketing, and since then, Drexler said he’s been watching it “every minute of every day, like a new baby. We watch it real close like we watch the launch of any J. Crew business. Every day you get tons of feedback.”
The Web site is critical for Madewell, which nurtures a cool, hip, downtown-casual vibe infused with lots of denim at prices comparable with J. Crew. “We feel it’s a very, very important opportunity, given that we only have 17 Madewell stores,” Drexler said. “Madewell is [relatively] unknown, except there is a core group of followers around America who know it and are buying it.”
While J. Crew Group is very profitable, Madewell isn’t yet, losing $14 million last year on a pretax basis partially due to the less-than-opportune timing of several store openings during the last 18 months, a period when consumer spending plummeted, and a lack of scale to offset costs. Regarding the outlook for profitability, Drexler replied: “It’s dependent on two things: how quickly we make new store deals and how successful our online site becomes. We’re feeling very good about what’s going on, given the customer response to both stores and online.”
He believes there’s “pent-up demand” for Madewell, which warrants the launch of the Web site and additional stores. “It’s been scarce and not easy to shop. Things today in the world are viral,” he said.
As far as the online performance to date: “We’ve been very pleased with the amount of hits,” though many are people checking out the brand for the first time, more like window shopping rather than buying at this point, he acknowledged.
Asked what’s selling best online, Drexler cited items under the “Looks We Love” banner, including The Perfect chambray shirt, the Ahoy striped T, white skinny ankle jeans and the Wanderlust exclusive line for Madewell. Wanderlust is a Cambodia-based collection created by former fashion editor Elizabeth Keister. “We love the vibe of what she does,” Drexler said.
He already sees changes for madewell.com. There will be more editors’ and stylists’ comments on the site, more product shown on models and more online-only exclusives, as well as the Alexa Chung for Madewell Collection, which also will be sold in Madewell stores starting Sept. 10. In addition, it’s possible that Kin Ying Lee, head of Madewell design, or Gigi Guerra, Madewell’s marketing director, will get spotlighted on the site.
New Madewell stores this year are planned for University Village in Seattle, Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio, and in Georgetown in Washington. “We are expanding it. We are not overexpanding. I believe strongly in not being in a terrible hurry, but to do it right. We’re being selective on real estate,” said Drexler.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast