Style Check: J. Crew to open its first Asia-Pacific stores in Hong Kong
It's been some time coming, but American retailing giant J. Crew has announced it will open its first Asia-Pacific stores in Hong Kong in May.
This latest move is another major step in the retailer's recent international expansion.
"Hong Kong is a natural decision for us," says Mickey Drexler, J. Crew's chief executive and chairman. "It's a city where people understand and respect the integrity of great style, great design and great creativity. There's a level of energy that you don't see in most cities."
When I spoke to creative head Jenna Lyons last autumn at the opening of J.Crew's three London stores, she was reluctant to divulge any details of the upcoming Hong Kong space.
Location is everything, and the company has since revealed that one new 3,200 sq ft women's J. Crew store will open in IFC mall and another 2,100 sq ft men's store on On Lan Street in Central. Watching how the appearance of Zara, H&M, Gap, Topshop and Abercrombie & Fitch has transformed Hong Kong' high street in recent years, the time seems ripe for J. Crew's grand entrance.
The US label's Hong Kong outlets will feature exclusive fabrics, prints, colourful Italian cashmeres (my personal favourite) and limited edition designs - as well as the famous Ludlow suiting in the men's store. Those familiar with the brand will have seen how Lyons and Drexler have made daring, successful manoeuvres in recent years. Their incredibly successful online store launched in 2012, reaching 100 countries. In the same year, there was a sell out partnership with Lane Crawford to test out the local market. In 2013 there was a much reported big bang entry into London retail.
J. Crew's accessible prices and stylish, classic aesthetic have garnered a legion of powerful followers, including US first lady Michelle Obama, a major fashion influencer.
Even the more cynical of the fashion set have been won over by the partnerships the high street store has with heritage brands Ebbets Field Flannels and Barbour as part of their "In Good Company" design initiative.
The label also uses fantastic material from fine European mills and textile houses in their top-end items.
Luckily, Lyons mixes substance with a lot of style. A case in point is J. Crew's latest autumn-winter 2014 collection, which was shown at New York Fashion Week. Colourful layers, cosy jumpers and plenty of prints and patterns made for a cool and relaxed vibe. With bold colour combinations, low slung waists on dresses and plenty of covetable coats, J. Crew hit some high fashion points as well as offering up great winter staples.