The style had been around in various forms, most notably as Brooks Brothers for a hundred years.
With Ralph Lauren all the rage, J.Crew rebranded four decades ago to become what is now a $2 billion a year business.
In 1983, what started as Popular Merchandise in 1947, became known as J.Crew, Inc. They opened their first retail store, in South Street Seaport in downtown Manhattan in 1989 and by 2016, they had more than 450 shops throughout the U.S.
J.Crew Group was owned by the Cinader family for most of its existence, but Texas Pacific bought 62%, managers held about 10%, and Emily Cinader Woods, chairman of J.Crew, along with her father, Arthur Cinader, held the remaining 25+%.
Briefly in the mid 90s, I took a job as J.Crew men’s catalogue art director – THE single worst job I’ve ever had.
The loathsome Arthur Cinader (the old man’s meaness was legendary) oversaw every single spread, photo and caption of the men’s catalogue. He sat next to you at your computer, demanding that you “move this up” “Crop that!” or “No, no! Not that! Ugh!” and then he’d storm out.
It was a real nightmare. Rather HE was a nightmare. The office operated like a dysfunctional family with everyone pretending,
While at lunch break on my first day, I seriously considered not going back. I only took the job so that I was employed full-time, so we could buy our 1869 Brownstone in Brooklyn. (For $168,000, btw!) Anyway, the entire operation was a mess and after our loan went through, I was free to go, and I did. Years later in Upstate New York I became friends with a man who had been Arthur’s personal assistant during that time and heard even MORE horror stories.
In May 2020, Crew applied for bankruptcy protection amid the COVID pandemic fallout.
But J.Crew somehow is still going after 40 years. Here’s the latest from the anniversary catalogue.