By  on August 13, 2009

With its first flagship, Crewcuts is at its most playful.

From the bright, hand-painted beaded sneakers and sequined cashmere sweaters to the Duncan yo-yos and gnomes draped in jewelry, the creative spirit of the flagship extends from the casual to dressy merchandise to the whimsical windows and floor displays.

The 2,200-square-foot shop opened Tuesday on the northwest corner of Madison Avenue, with a J. Crew-designed ice cream stand out front to lure the crowd.

It’s a colorful pastiche of designer collaborations, artist installations and fun that demonstrates the J. Crew Group refuses to go the cookie-cutter route. The flagship even has its own name, Crewcuts on Madison, and a laid-back logo that’s lowercase and with Madison etched in script.

It’s also evidence J. Crew takes the Crewcuts children’s collection for sizes 2 to 12 just as seriously as the adult lines. Currently, Crewcuts is available in 35 shop-in-shops inside J. Crew stores around the country, eight freestanding Crewcuts stores, and via

“Kids at five are dictating what they want to wear,” said J. Crew’s creative director, Jenna Lyons. “We wanted the clothes and environment to feel incredibly special but the price points to be really approachable.” she said, citing the tulle and silk slub T-shirts priced at $34, as well as the skinny stretch cords for $42.

Sprinkled throughout the store are Crew-designed googly eyed cupcakes; aluminum foil animals by Dean Millien; Hugo Guinness prints of different things; classic kids books like “Babar,” “Mary Poppins” and “Doctor Dolittle”; wooden toys by Kid O, and Siku toy cars. One fitting room had walls covered in colored Lyra pencils, and another had English telephones in sorbet colors that played music, made animal sounds and told stories. British artist and prop stylist Martin Bourne, along with J.Crew’s team of designers, conceptualized the store’s window installation — a series of electric-colored striped trees created by artist Baptiste Ibar and inspired by the back-to-school catalogue photographed in Big Sur.

The merchandise runs from sophisticated to froufrou and tomboyish and features Sperry Top-Siders; Hunter & Aigle wellies; Levi’s with selvedge weaves; Jack Purcell limited edition and hand-painted beaded sneakers; Thomas Mason shirting; Red Wing boots; Fjällräven Kanken backpacks; Blundstone boots, and a vintage collection of jean jackets. In the dressy shop in the back of the store are pearl necklaces; taffeta and tulle skirts; classic suits and ties, and cashmere sequined sweaters.

Big among the girls are boyfriend blazers, novelty T-shirts and skinny jeans, reflecting trends adults respond to as well, Lyons noted. Also popular at Crewcuts are the washed cotton shirts, graphic T-shirts, cashmere cable crew sweaters and quilted jackets.

However, none of the apparel or accessories would qualify as “mini-me” versions of items in the adult J. Crew collection, Lyons said. The inspiration is more from “the way children style themselves and the wacky combinations that they create on their own,” she added. “We wanted to take that organic idea and have some crazy fun.”

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