NEW YORK — J. Crew is shaking up its women’s Collection store at 769 Madison Avenue here — and is calling in the men to do it.
The 860-square-foot store was previously devoted to the retailer’s highest-priced women’s offering but now has added men’s wear to its lower level. A stenciled line on the glass of the Madison Avenue windows explains it in typical J. Crew tongue-in-cheek fashion: “Our men’s collection has officially moved in. It’s a big step for our relationship.”
The addition comes even though there is a J. Crew men’s store only 13 blocks north, at 79th Street and Madison Avenue.
“We had a lot of guys coming in and we had to direct them to 79th Street or 44th Street,” said Frank Muytjens, J. Crew’s men’s designer. “We’re doing well with our freestanding [men’s] stores.”
J. Crew currently operates 24 men’s-only stores in the U.S., Europe and Canada. It has 283 stores overall.
The men’s wear shown within the space on Madison Avenue runs the gamut from tuxedos and J. Crew’s signature Ludlow suit to merchandise from third-party brands including Play Comme des Garçons sweaters, Thomas Mason shirts, Lacoste polos, Maison Kitsune dress shirts and Drake pocket squares. Alden shoes are also prominently displayed.
Although the women’s collection represents the brand’s highest-priced offering, Muytjens said the men’s mix is not all elevated product. There are chinos and washed T-shirts mixed in with suede bomber jackets. The company’s Wallace & Barnes label, its more vintage-inspired upscale product, is also sprinkled throughout and includes a selvage chino for $288 and a leather jacket for $995.
The overall aesthetic is casual and the design is more clean than clubby to complement the design of the women’s department upstairs.
The men’s department is in two rooms, the first devoted to neutrals and khakis and the rear to blues with jeans, indigo cardigans and garment-dyed Ts.
The men’s area had a soft opening at the end of last month and its official grand-opening event is Thursday. Muytjens said since men’s was added, best-selling items include the Ludlow suits, Thomas Mason shirts, a suede jacket and a Wallace & Barnes leather jacket.
J. Crew Group has experienced some soft sales of late and in March, it reported a loss in the fourth quarter of $30.6 million versus income of $5.9 million in the same period in 2013. Millard “Mickey” Drexler, chief executive officer, characterized 2014 as “lousy,” due in large part to struggles in its women’s business.
Muytjens said converting the lower level of the Collection store to men’s should not be construed as an indictment against women’s and a nod to men’s, which is performing better. “It was time for the guys to have another location,” he said.