Don't shop at J.Crew until you read this

J.Crew, an icon of preppy fashion, has been a major player in the industry for decades. According to the brand's 2018 SEC filing, J.Crew is an "internationally recognized multi-brand apparel and accessories retailer that differentiates itself through high standards of quality, style, design and fabrics." The company has national and international locations and a major online presence as J.Crew and J.Crew Factory. The brand — which offers a wide assortment of apparel and accessories for men, women, and children — is also behind Madewell.

While a trusted brand for decades, J.Crew has experienced some turmoil in recent years, and some reports express concern for the future of the brand. According to Business Insider, 2018 was a troublesome year for J.Crew with an executive overhaul, a slew of store closings, and overturned decisions. So before you spend a dime on the brand, let's go over everything you need to know about the beloved clothing company.

J.Crew's has had its ups and downs

It might concern some that J.Crew is reported to be in a bit of a financial pickle as of 2019. With many retail behemoths like The Gap downsizing, it can be a bit of a gamble to fall in love with a brand only to watch it shrink. But it is helpful to know that the brand has waxed and waned throughout its existence due to shifting fashion trends and shopping methods.

According to Business Insider, the first J.Crew catalog launched its preppy wares to near-immediate success in 1983. As the popularity of catalog shopping waned, J.Crew saw the writing on the wall and launched brick and mortar stores in the late '80s. Throughout the early 2000s, the brand tried new partnerships, launched a wedding line, opened Madewell, and attempted to go a little more high-brow. Some efforts were successful and others were duds, but, ultimately, with the success of Madewell and some restructuring plans, the J.Crew family of brands has stuck around and doesn't appear to be going anywhere.

J.Crew cares about community and its impact on society

J.Crew works to both support its communities and make sure that the work it and its partners do is conducted ethically and thoughtfully. The popular brand works to support communities through myriad of efforts like fundraisers, donations, and volunteer opportunities for associates throughout the company. The brand also offers a matching program, providing money to match either volunteer time or cash donated by employees.

Also, J.Crew takes ethical sourcing seriously. The brand holds partners to the same standards, as its website states, "We're committed to sourcing our products in a legal, ethical and responsible manner — that's why we aim to partner with suppliers who share this belief and work with them to promote better working conditions." Specifically, J.Crew employs a Vendor Code of Conduct and monitors conditions in partner facilities, aiding in improving conditions that fall short of those standards.

J.Crew has a great rewards program as well as sales and discounts throughout the year

In regards to the J.Crew Rewards program, for every dollar you spend, you get one point, and, when you amass 200 points, you earn a $5 reward. Sign-up is free and, at the time of this writing, gives an automatic 15 percent off your first purchase when you join. Membership also unlocks the key to free shipping 365 days a year and exclusive access to deals and offers. The Rewards program is good for J.Crew, J.Crew Factory, and relatively new sub-brand J.Crew Mercantile.

The brand offers a 15 percent-off discount to students and teachers, and has plenty of seasonal and holiday sales throughout the year. Take, for instance, the brand's 2018 Black Friday sale which, according to BlackFriday.com, included products up to 50 percent off of purchase price. The 2018 "After Christmas Sale" features items up to 50 percent off as well. As Business Insider stated in a video, "Retailers are advertising deep discounts in the wake of the holidays, but few are as steep as J. Crew."

J.Crew has plenty of shopping options

J.Crew has multiple categories when it comes to shopping options. First up is the old stand-by, J.Crew retail stores, like the ones commonly found in shopping mall settings. The second is J.Crew Factory, which sells lower-priced items. Under the Factory umbrella is also the brand's newest store type called J.Crew Mercantile, which sells nearly identical merchandise as those sold at the Factory locations but are located outside of traditional "outlet mall" settings.

According to the company's official SEC Annual Report, as of February 2019, there were 203 J.Crew retail stores, 174 J.Crew Factory stores (which includes 42 J.Crew Mercantile stores), and 129 Madewell retail stores. If you are looking for one of these many locations, it is super simple to find one with J.Crew's store finder tool. Just be sure to note that there are separate store finders for J.Crew and J.Crew Outlet.

J.Crew's sister company is the popular Madewell

In addition to J.Crew and J.Crew Factory, J.Crew boasts Madewell as its younger (and currently more successful) sister brand. Launched as a women's "denim-centric" J.Crew subsidiary in 2006 (via Quartz), the brand took off quickly. Selling wardrobe staples rooted in a workwear tradition like jeans and button-down shirts, the brand is simple and timeless. On Madewell.com, the company boasts, "Simply put, we make great jeans. We also focus on all the things you wear with denim, like effortless tees, keep-forever bags, cool jewelry and compliment-worthy shoes." In September 2018, Madewell also launched a menswear line

Like how Old Navy outperformed its parent company The Gap (via CNN), Madewell is, at the time of this writing, outperforming J.Crew. Rumors swirl that, just as Old Navy and The Gap ultimately split, Madewell will eventually separate from J.Crew, as reported by Vox.

If you decide you want to invest in some threads from Madewell, its products are sold internationally at Net-a-Porter and Nordstrom. Madewell also has 129 brick and mortar locations throughout the United States and a robust online presence at Madewell.com.

This is J.Crew's stance on the environment

Environmentally savvy shoppers might be interested to know that J.Crew takes great measures to assure that it is working to lessen the negative impact that their stores may make on the planet. The J.Crew website lists its three key objectives in working to ensure J.Crew and sister brands are environmentally friendly as "facility and product impacts," "supply chain performance," and "associate and customer engagement." 

They employ four key strategies to reach those objectives. First up, J.Crew tackles energy efficiency. In J.Crew offices and retail stores, steps are taken to lessen energy use by installing technology like energy-efficient lighting and sensor lighting, as well as low-water volume restroom features. Second, J.Crew provides responsibly sourced paper products. Since the company utilizes paper shopping bags and catalogs, it also works with suppliers in a commitment to monitor the percentage of products that are recycled and how they are sourced. J.Crew's third strategy is waste minimization, as the company works to reuse or recycle products when possible. And finally, in strong partnership with businesses in the supply chain, J.Crew works to ensure that environmental impacts are reduced from the top down.

J.Crew now offers more inclusive sizes

If size inclusivity is important to you as a shopper, J.Crew and its subsidiaries are providing some of what you crave. The J.Crew brand, along with Madewell, launched extended sizing (up to size 35) of some denim offerings in early 2018, but, at the time, it was only available online and sold out immediately.

Vox reported that J.Crew, realizing the market and demand, began rolling out more plus-sized options in 2018. J.Crew also launched a partnership with plus-sized clothing producer Universal Standard to offer a broader range of sizes in the latter brand's simple style. J.Crew's chief merchandising officer told HuffPost, "We're on a mission to make great style available to everyone." According to Racked, the initial collection ranged from XXS to 5X and included 37 different styles, such as wide-leg jumpsuits, tunics, and tees. The partnership launched with the hashtag #SetYourStandard.

Though at the time of publication, it seems like the Universal Standard partnership has slowed with only a couple of offerings available, J.Crew and Madewell continue to offer a wide array of sizes in their online stores. With the plus-size market growing, it doesn't look like they'll slow down anytime soon.

J.Crew partners with other rad brands

Like the 2018 collaboration with Universal Standard, J.Crew has a rich history of partnering with other rad brands to offer myriad of unique products. For instance, at the time of this publication, JCrew.com listed more than 70 brands in their Brands We Love section. Examples include Le Specs sunglasses, dog collars from The Knot House, and even a Carhartt fanny pack. But that's not all!

Starting with Nike, J.Crew launched a series of popular sneaker partnerships. The Nike Killshot model has continually sold out quickly, and brands like Vans, New Balance, and Asics are now in on the action as the sports casual trend continues. 

J.Crew has also been lauded for launching a non-traditional marketing initiative with WeWork and LinkedIn. The collaboration included co-presented business and networking events as well as pop-up shops to directly reach a professional crowd, offering discounts to WeWork employees.

Michelle Obama brought major attention to J.Crew.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama is famous from coast to coast for her impeccable taste in clothing. NPR's Renee Montagne reported on a Harvard Business Review study for Morning Edition regarding the former FLOTUS's effect on "29 publicly traded companies whose clothes she's worn," and the findings were staggering. According to the report, "those shares tend to go up after Mrs. Obama wears their clothes," adding that the impact "is worth $2.7 billion for the combined stock of those 29 companies."

That's why when Obama came out early on in her husband's first term sporting J.Crew offerings, the brand's notoriety and stock prices rose significantly. According to NPR's Code Switch, when the Obamas made their very first official trip to the U.K., she donned a J.Crew "jeweled cream silk cardigan over a pale green pencil skirt," and the sweater sold out within hours of the photos hitting the news.

Time covered 15 iconic moments that FLOTUS wore J.Crew jackets, gloves, dresses, skirts, and cardigans. These moments ranged from an inauguration parade and foreign travel to school visits and television appearances, demonstrating that the brand makes something for every occasion.

British royals are fans of J.Crew

First Ladies are not the only public figures donning J.Crew. If the British Royal family is more your speed, fear not, as there is a long-running history of several members wearing J.Crew. From Pippa Middleton and Meghan Markle sporting the same J.Crew clutch to Kate Middleton's cozy maroon sweater, J.Crew has almost become synonymous with the royal family. Not only are royals wearing the brand in casual settings, but Prince Harry also wore a light gray Italian wool J.Crew suit to the 2019 christening ceremony for his firstborn son, Archie.

If you do find yourself taking fashion cues from the royal family, make sure to be fast on the draw as items publicly worn by the squad tend to sell out quickly. Take, for instance, this sailing-themed outfit that Kate Middleton wore. It flew into carts and off the shelves after she wore it to a sailing event in 2017.

J.Crew aims to be inclusive in its media presence

If you are looking to drop dough with a brand that is representative of the diversity of the world, J.Crew is making efforts to do just that. Often criticized for its exclusive "New England preppy" look, the brand is aiming at a more inclusive marketing strategy. With Lauren Hutton as a longtime "face" of the brand, J.Crew is attempting to erase age boundaries in their ads and online presence. By working with plus-sized models surrounding the launch of Universal Standard, the brand looks to do the same in regards to representing an array of diverse body types. Creative director Johanna Uurasjarvi spoke to Vogue regarding the brand's strategy in 2018, saying, "J.Crew is a well-loved, iconic American brand, and we're updating it to reflect the America of today and of the future to be more inclusive, more diverse, and more modern." 

Though J.Crew is making the effort, the company doesn't always get it right. In 2017, there was serious online debate regarding the hairstyle of a model of color on Madewell, with many suggesting that J.Crew "didn't hire someone who knew how to style her hair," according to Cosmopolitan. J.Crew apologized via Twitter.

J.Crew credit card holders get access to exclusives

You might want to consider taking the plunge and signing up for a J.Crew credit card so you can purchase your way into some serious rewards. Here's how it works. There is no annual fee associated with the card, and it has convenient online bill pay and account management, as well as the ability to add cards for authorized users. The card carries a standard variable APR of 27.24 percent and can incur late fees of up to $39. The application process is pretty standard and easy to navigate, but it does require the user be over 18, have a valid ID, tax ID, and mailing address.

Now for the rewards. The first purchase made with the credit card gets 15 percent off. From there, cardholders who are enrolled in the J.Crew Rewards program get double the points. This means that for every dollar spent, 2 points are earned. And, if you spend $100, you get $5 worth of points. Standard shipping is always free for users, and you also get access to free standard alterations, a birthday surprise, and access to exclusive deals and priority customer service.

The 411 on returns and exchanges at J.Crew

If you purchase an item or receive a gift that doesn't quite work for you, J.Crew has several options to resolve the situation. According to their return and exchange policy, items can be returned or exchanged within 30 days of purchase if they are "unworn, unwashed, undamaged or defective," regardless of where the initial sale was made. J.Crew also allows online returns, though they do charge a $7.50 fee for return shipping, which is deducted from the return total. It can take up to two weeks to get a refund processed. If you received a gift you don't love, the return/exchange process is the same but they do require a gift receipt.

It is important to note that items bought at J.Crew cannot be returned to J.Crew Factory and vice versa. Thankfully, price adjustments are offered if your recent purchase just went on sale with the stipulation that it was full price when you bought it, if it is "within seven days of the retail purchase or mail-order ship date," and if you have the original receipt.

J.Crew may not have wedding dresses anymore, but the brand has plenty of suits

While J.Crew's incredibly popular wedding collection sadly shuttered in 2016, after 12 years in operation, the men's suit department remains open for business. So while brides may be out of luck with the brand, the grooms are swimming in options. In fact, GQ listed J.Crew's linen Ludlow suit as one of the magazine's top picks for summer wedding suits in June 2019.

Beyond wedding outfitting, J.Crew offers a robust array of suiting options. The J.Crew retail site lists different suit jackets, suit pants, and tuxedo jackets, while the J.Crew Factory site has suits and tuxedo jackets listed at lower prices. With fabric options ranging from cotton and wool to plaid and herringbone, there is something for every season and occasion. And, according to Men's Journal, when J.Crew Factory has a sale on, it is a fantastic time to nab a suit as products may be up to 50 percent off. So, what are you waiting for?