NEW YORK — Madewell, an old workwear label reinvented by Millard “Mickey” Drexler into a division of J. Crew Group, has inked distribution deals with Nordstrom and Net-a-porter, according to sources.
Madewell will begin selling on Nordstrom.com on March 2 and in 15 Nordstrom stores on March 6.
J. Crew officials declined comment.
The former workwear company in New Bedford, Mass., dates back to 1937. Drexler, the chairman and chief executive officer of J. Crew Group, started reinventing Madewell in 2007 after he purchased the trademark and sold it to J. Crew. Currently, Madewell is distributed through Madewell stores and madewell.com.
Madewell was a work in progress for years before Drexler and his team came up with the formula he felt was suitable for stepping up the rollout of the brand. About a year and a half ago, Drexler overhauled the Madewell team, recruiting new design, marketing and merchandising heads. A denim studio was created and the focus was more squarely shifted on products resonating best with consumers, like denim, chambray shirts, dresses and leather boots. Madewell has a young, hip, casual tomboy appeal, with denim, accessories and T-shirts at its core. The brand is designed and operated separately from J. Crew and sold via madewell.com as well as 85 Madewell stores.
In the third quarter, the company reported that Madewell had a 32 percent gain in revenues, while J. Crew’s business was difficult, dragged down by the women’s category. The J. Crew brand began selling on Net-a-porter.com in 2010 and is also sold at Lane Crawford in Asia.
The Madewell deal with Nordstrom recalls a similar agreement Topshop made with Nordstrom in 2012. Sir Philip Green, Topshop’s owner, said last November that the brand was in 51 Nordstrom stores and that the number would grow. Bringing Topshop and Madewell into Nordstrom reflects the Seattle-based retailer’s efforts to broaden its base of customers and cast a trendier, hipper image. It also gives Topshop and Madewell a significant distribution channel in the U.S. relatively quickly. Coincidentally, Green is friendly with Drexler.