In June, I purchased a costume from J.Crew. Referred to as the Apron Gown, it is manufactured from thick, drapey cotton, and has roomy patch pockets and criss-cross straps throughout an open again. I’ve a photograph of my late grandmother in a single similar to it circa the early Sixties, popping a hip towards her kitchen’s Formica counter tops.
This wasn’t an ordinary buy for me. Sure, I have a tendency to attract stylistic affect from deceased elders, however not typically have I carried out so from J.Crew. Not not too long ago, anyway. (Based on the “Receipts” folder in my inbox, the final time I had spent cash with the model was in 2018.) However this time, I used to be influenced — and never by your typical influencer gathering an affiliate test on the other finish of my buy: I purchased the Apron Gown as a result of a girl named Olympia Gayot satisfied me to (on Instagram, after all).
Who’s Olympia Gayot? On paper, she’s been J.Crew’s prime womenswear canine since 2020, having beforehand served because the retailer’s design director, from 2010 to 2017. (In between, Gayot did a stint at Victoria’s Secret, working as its vp of design.) However that is not what made me purchase the Apron Gown.
Off paper, Gayot is painfully stylish, nonchalantly pairing crisp, starched button-downs with Dr. Woo tattoos, and convincing me I merely should spend money on a chartreuse linen swimsuit. I am not alone, because it seems: At press time, the #OlympiaGayot hashtag on TikTok has garnered greater than 550,000 video views. A minimum of certainly one of them got here courtesy of Heather Hurst, a Washington, D.C.-based creator and J.Crew buyer who posts beneath the deal with @pigmami.
“After I first heard about Olympia, I instantly went to stalk her on-line to see who she was, this lady who’s the brand new head of this firm that filed for chapter,” she says. “And I believe that is precisely simply what social media has us all doing.”
It is the type of enthusiasm the label hasn’t garnered because the days of — dare I say it — one Jenna Lyons. What does this imply for the model’s large rebuild?
In November 2020, simply six months after its chapter submitting, J.Crew promoted former Madewell head Libby Wadle to CEO, and final Could, it tasked downtown New York designer Brendon Babenzien to reinvent its males’s enterprise. With Gayot as govt vp of ladies’s design, might J.Crew be on the trail to “getting it?”
A graduate of New York Metropolis’s Faculty of Visible Arts, Gayot started her profession as a painter, however stored a foot in style out of behavior. Her mom labored as a designer when Gayot was rising up. “There was one thing concerning the vitality and the tempo that was glamorous in its personal approach,” she says. “Particularly as a younger lady, I used to be very excited by that.”
Gayot initially joined J.Crew’s design crew in 2010, after nailing an interview with Lyons. All through the years, she remembers amassing increasingly classes, finally main activewear, swimwear and the Holy Grail of all of them: sweaters. “There was a lot emphasis on making nice merchandise and designing with creativity in thoughts that it was straightforward to remain as a result of it was at all times thrilling,” she says.
In our interview, Gayot describes her design philosophy as being twofold — “simplifying with confidence” and “making it private.” Each, she argues, go hand in hand.
“You will get wearing a easy approach and a cushty approach, so it is not the garments that costume you,” she says. “I’ve at all times informed my associates and colleagues that it is nearly discovering what appears to be like good on you. what you discover stunning about your self, whether or not it is your hair or your waist or your wrists — that is what you intensify. You are a very powerful factor; the garments are secondary.”
The notion that you just make your garments and never the opposite approach round trickles into Gayot’s personal social media presence. On Instagram, the place her follower rely now clocks in round 65,000-, she highlights her penchant for outsized silhouettes, girlish footwear and irreverent jewellery, the majority of which is J.Crew. “If you cannot put on the garments, there’s one thing fallacious,” she says. “You need to put on the garments every single day.”
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“I do not observe J.Crew, I observe her,” says Boston-based TikTok creator Chidera Nwankwo, aka @tasteofchidera. “Her Instagram is the gateway to J.Crew. It is like, she’s J.Crew’s operating Pinterest board of those concepts and the way they’re being delivered to life.”
A lot of these concepts, Gayot explains, lie within the preppy-adjacent wardrobe fundamentals that put J.Crew on the map within the first place — specifically, the retailer’s catalog heyday of the late ’80s and early ’90s. However what labored 40, 20, even simply 5 years in the past will not at present. As Babenzien informed GQ this previous July: “Both we make higher merchandise, we encourage folks to buy higher, wiser, smarter, no matter you need to name it, or we’re carried out.” So, what does that appear to be?
“As a lot as J. Crew is its personal model, it is also, actually, a style model,” says Gayot. “It isn’t uber-trendy, but it surely takes the style that is occurring and places it by way of that lens to create the J.Crew model. For me, it was an enormous objective to revitalize and modernize the fundamentals.”
A technique Gayot is doing so is by combing by way of the J.Crew archives, the method of which she paperwork on Instagram, posting the covers of decades-old catalogs alongside her common sartorial fare. The apply has taught her that J.Crew could have its heritage, but it surely’s not exempt from the pattern cycle altogether. The place the ’80s and ’90s supplied up Hyannis Port staples with a grungy aptitude, the early aughts introduced one thing extra maximal and female — “all that ‘Intercourse and the Metropolis’ stuff,” she says.
Immediately, the pattern du jour is a little more troublesome to outline. However no matter it’s, Nwankwo is shopping for it.
“When you observe Olympia on Instagram, you understand she continually references the J.Crew archive,” she says. “And that is most likely my favourite half about following her, that you just get to see the event of how a chunk got here to be. All the things does not must be this recent, revolutionary, new concept. We needn’t see denims worn as tops. We’re not in search of one thing revolutionary, however one thing that simply works.”
That is the J.Crew DNA, in spite of everything: easy, unpretentious and aspirational clothes you could possibly actually, actually stay your life in. Solely now, the lives Olympia is designing for are completely different. In lots of circumstances, they’re youthful, maybe Gen Z- and millennial-aged customers buying on Instagram or thumbing by way of TikTok, participating with the influencers that align with their values. Influencers like Gayot.
“Influencers ship this private contact for manufacturers,” says Hurst. “The truth that Olympia posts a lot and may be very clear about her artistic course of helps in restructuring their narrative and making their merchandise extra interesting. Olympia is making J.Crew extra accessible to most of the people. A number of the methods she types the items should not so preppy.”
It isn’t simply Gayot: J.Crew goes all in on influencer tradition. For its newest spring marketing campaign, the model partnered with TikTok to make the most of its Spark Adverts software, boosting native content material from a large community of creators. (To this point, it has amassed practically 20 million views mixed.) There’s additionally the J.Crew Collective, a “artistic group of ambassadors, collaborators and muses” that, successfully, helps promote the model throughout their respective platforms. Gayot even tells me a couple of high-school scholar who not too long ago slid into her DMs — certainly one of many followers who attain out for buying or styling recommendation — to ask what sweater she ought to put on together with her college uniform.
“That is the great thing about J.Crew, is that it is for grandmothers, moms, daughters — it is for a multi-generational buyer,” says Gayot. “It is fascinating to consider all these completely different ladies and their completely different lives, and what they want. ‘Do I’ve the best stuff for this individual?’ If not, I higher design it.”
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