SuitSupply vs. J.Crew: Everything You Need Know
If you are looking for quality when it comes to your wardrobe but you don’t have a designer budget, there are a few brands out there that you can count on to help lead you in the right direction. When it comes to a better fitting, trendier type of suit, SuitStyle and J.Crew are known for having a more tailored fit, but without the added expense of an actual tailor. They use better fabrics than the fast-fashion brands and stay up with the trends so you can upgrade your style without breaking the bank.
We take a look at both brands, their history, and which you should consider when you need a new suit.
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SuitSupply, founded by Fokke de Jong in Amsterdam in 1999, was started when De Jong began running the operation out of his dorm room. He started selling with the direct-to-consumer model made possible by the Internet. Eventually, he got his sales to a point that he could open a brick-and-mortar. That did so well he began opening more brick-and-mortars in other countries around the globe.
While their storefront operations remain strong, their online business accounts for 30-40% of their sales. As a matter of fact, they tend to open up store locations in areas that see a high volume of online sales. They also refer to their stores as “destinations” because they are off the beaten path and away from major shopping centers or thoroughfares.
SuitSupply stands out from the competition by attracting the man that is looking to buy his first decent suit at a lower price point. Their customer is wanting something trendy and usually cut in a slimmer style. Their suits start out at around $500 and go up depending on the fabric and style. They use imported Italian fabrics and sew their suits in China, following strict ethical guidelines.
De Jong has compared their business model to how H&M and Zara brought more affordable clothing to a larger portion of customers, except SuitSupply is doing it on a higher tier with better fabrics and higher-quality style choices, such as functional button cuffs and trendier options.
They also are no stranger to self-imposed controversy when it comes to their advertising campaigns. They are provocative in nature and have been referred to as sexist and chauvinistic, even having a few ads banned in London and censored in America. On the other hand, the phrase “bad publicity is still publicity” works here because the brand gets attention.
One of these campaigns featured miniature men in suits exploring the vast mountains of a giant model’s breasts. Another showed a man in a well-tailored suit surrounded by a bevy of naked models. The intended and received messaging is that the suit gives power to the wearer which, in turn, makes the man more sexually attractive.
For the Spring/Summer 2018 campaign, the naked women were replaced with male models in suits, showcasing that the clothing also has the potential to attract men. The company’s intention was to bring more awareness to gay pride and love. The same year, they also included photos of men having relationships with each other. These images were displayed on billboards, on subways, at bus stops, and in nearly all of their 100 stores across 22 countries.
Even though most people celebrated the sexual diversity, others were quick to disparage the brand for taking a stance on sexual orientation, calling for boycotts and protests. This strong, emotional response only brought more attention to the brand, ensuring that their unique branding model continues to stand out from other suiting companies and attracting a younger, more open-minded crowd.
Whatever they are doing, it’s working. SuitSupply continues to grow, both online and in retail, and they are looked at as marketing geniuses amongst some circles.
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With a different story and much different ad campaigns than SuitSupply, J.Crew was founded in 1983 by Arthur Cinader. He chose the name Crew to directly compete with Ralph Lauren’s Polo label and added the J to add a little something-something.
He used editorial-esque photography for the catalogs, rather than the typical model-posing-in-clothes-on-a-white-backdrop that all the other catalogs were doing. He wanted to portray a glamorous, easygoing, picturesque all-American lifestyle and he was quite successful at it. The J.Crew catalogs became known for their beautiful imagery and appealed to the masses.
J.Crew quickly became the go-to brand for crisp shorts, striped tees, feminine ruffled blouses, and anything and everything worn by preppy collegiate types. Wearing boat shoes and J.Crew went hand-in-hand.
And then came the 90s, when preppy was out and grunge was in. The brand took a hit financially and stylistically and retreated to rebrand, but they had a hard time deciding what direction to take. The original bright, poppy campaigns did not work in the era of heroin-chic.
The company came back and decided to embrace an all-around lifestyle and launched a bridal collection that included moderately priced bridesmaid’s dresses available in a variety of bright colors. This also included more trendy men’s suiting that was more affordable and better-fitting than they had sold previously.
They also decided to re-launch their children’s line, Crewcuts. Part of this relaunch included school uniforms which were quickly gaining popularity in both private and public schools across the US.
Jenna Lyons took over as Creative Director and fine-tuned the company’s new look by taking standard wardrobe staples and adding little twists, thus bringing J.Crew back to the forefront of the American shopping experience. It didn’t hurt that Michelle Obama was a huge fan and was photographed wearing the brand on multiple occasions, including talk shows, interviews, charity work, and out and about with the rest of the First Family.
Lyons rebranded the campaigns with more race, size, and age diversity, making the brand inspirational, rather than aspirational. Her layered way of styling as well by mixing masculine with feminine, such as wearing boyfriend trousers with sparkly jewelry. She also perfected women’s suiting, bringing a feminine touch with slimmer trousers and blazers nipped-in at the waist.
Both brands come from humble beginnings and honestly, haven’t been around all that long. Yet, because of their good quality and ability to redirect, rebrand, and create beautiful campaigns, controversial or not, they have been able to sustain. So, next time you need a suit or a pleated skirt with a twist, remember what these brands have to offer. But don’t take our word for it, check out the quality for yourself, and be prepared for the inevitable question, “Where did you get that great suit?”
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