When J.Crew named its new head of womenswear last year, it was an essential decision to appoint someone who knew the brand and could replicate what its consumers look for. And so, Somsack Sikhounmuong was plucked from Madewell and placed back in J.Crew, where he had worked for 15 years in the past. Because of this time spent, he would easily be able to pick up on the brand’s signature and place it where it needed to go in the line. And for the J.Crew fall 2016 ready-to-wear showing at New York Fashion Week, that expertise showed in the upbeat and downright happy clothes presented for the season.
“I was inspired by pretty, and what does pretty mean – pink, ruffles and silk scarves,” the designer told WWD. All of these aspects played a role in this season’s collection, but it certainly wasn’t limited to those three things.
The garment colors were all over the map, from bubblegum pink to mustard, yet everything worked toward a functional winter color scheme. The line was overtly feminine, from the chosen shades to the ruffles and accessories, but was interspersed with the pristine tailoring of the outerwear. For a fall/winter line, the outerwear was crucial to its success, and the jackets and coats certainly were on a level of their own. Out of all the garments in the overall collection, I would say it was the outerwear that was to die for, and which were the most youthful. That much cannot be said for all of the other looks beneath the coats in the line.
None of the pieces stood out as being poorly executed or unflattering for the season, but sometimes the looks became drab, and lacked a sense of freshness or youth, which would have amplified the vibrant J.Crew spirit. Some skirts, for instance, were right on target with their hemlines, especially those that hit right above the knee. Others, however, seemed just an inch or two too long, such as with the tea-length turquoise skirt with ruffled bottom. The slightly oversized skirt didn’t benefit from the additional length, especially when paired with the slightly baggy sweater on top. Perhaps in a different context the looks would work better, although in this showing, pieces like these started to bring the collection down.
Many of the looks were styled in a way that was just a bit too matured for the J.Crew standard. The brand has always been able to find the perfect balance between the two generations of customers, which made their clothing unique and diverse across the ages, but this season it seems the scales have tipped just a little bit too far in the one direction. Individually, the pieces do seem to have the potential for the gold standard J.Crew wow moments, but the overall styling didn’t play to the label’s advantage.
Maybe this is on account of Sikhounmuong getting used to his new position within the brand, but loosening up a bit should definitely be on the agenda for the brand’s next seasonal campaign, or its showing for next season. Because even loosening the models’ tight buns could have potentially done wonders for freshening up the outfits.
All in all, the potential in this line is tremendous. There is no doubt that Sikhounmuong knows what he is doing as a designer, especially amongst the J.Crew crowd. So the outlook is positive for the brand as it progresses into future lines. These garments are ready-to-wear, and will look great lined up on the racks in store locations, so if there’s any doubt now, just wait for the seasonal release.
Photos courtesy of WWD