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Snippet of NPR Planet Money: J. Screwed

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Last Played: March 05, 2021
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Snippet of NRP Planet Money: J. Screwed
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Pete Jake, whose name has a lot of value, partly because it's been around for decades. It was trademarked back in 1983. Here's Connie Wang again, Who was Mr J. Crew? Wow, that's a big question. I don't believe that Mr J. Crew was an actual person. It was a marketing term that someone came up with to rename a company that was not very successful, um, to evoke a very preppy kind of, uh, imagery. And I think it really achieved that j dot crew. Who is Mr J? No one knows, but he does crew. Before it had been Popular Merchandise Inc. Which is maybe the most utilitarian brand name ever, which actually fit because the clothes were practical, affordable. Changing the name to J. Crew gave it this kind of New England aura. It became a look of the eighties that was very much in line with the other sort of catalog brands of the time, like in L. L. Bean or Land's End. Their customer base were, you know, very preppy East Coast people who wore cable knit sweaters and boat shoes, and she knows who would monogrammed tote bags. And that's what it was for decades just this preppy brand, affordable for almost rich people. Ideal for mom to wear to the country club but distinctly not cool. Until 2000 and eight. I credit J Crew's success to Michelle Obama that fall, there was a recession and a presidential campaign. So there's all this scrutiny on the candidates, and it became public that then vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin had a $150,000 budget for her clothes. Around the same time Michelle Obama went on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Michelle Obama wore a pencil skirt, a cardigan and a blouse. It sounds like a very, very boring combination 10 years later, but at the time the color was really, really cool. So she's on stage in this all yellow get up chatting with Jay Leno, and he's like, How much did your clothes cost? I want to ask you about your wardrobe. I'm guessing about 60 grand way 60 70,000 about actually, this is a J crew ensemble, really Wait for that. I have no idea what that means, but way ladies wear stuff on online. And then to find out that she got her outfit at the mall at a brand that we haven't thought about for a long time, like we thought about this as her parents brand, that really captured people's attention. So suddenly there's this huge spotlight on J. Crew. And as luck would have it, J. Crew had someone in house who was, randomly exactly what America wanted, right at that exact moment, their creative director, Jenna Lyons. A lot of people just found her fascinating. She had, like, slicked back hair and big, chunky glasses that were quote unquote like unsexy. And yes, she was like 20 ft tall, really willowy. She was just this mixture of things that were unexpected. She's an icon, this icon working for some normal mall brand. Like if Beyonce was writing jingles for Home Depot, then it turns out that Jenna Lyons had been working at J. Crew for a long, long time. She wasn't just this, like flash in the pan sort of celebrity designer. She had a Cinderella story. Really, Um, she started out as an assistant, worked her way up, and now that she is at the head of this like major fashion company, everyone just there's a reason to root for her. She's the underdog. Jenna Lyons had this sort of magical way of combining expensive
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