NEW YORK -- J. Crew headed down to the docks for its fall and winter 2014 menswear collection, presented in the Lincoln Center tents here Tuesday morning.
Inspiration: "Fall is inspired by the waterfront of 1930s New York -- longshoremen hauling cargo, steel-girded ships and anchor chains," said head of J. Crew men's design Frank Muytjens in the show notes.
When we caught up with him at the presentation, Muytjens said the waterfront was always something that had resonated with him. "And I started watching 'On the Waterfront' again and everything kind of felt right; that crusty, salty, rough sort of element. In this collection the fabrics are sort of hefty, but they're cut in a way that makes it feel more modern and accessible."
The look: That translated into classic-with-a-twist pieces like diamond-quilted bomber jackets, mixed fabrication anoraks, unconstructed topcoats, pier-appropriate toggle-button coats and a range of sweaters (including a standout striped patchwork fabrication), all in a palette that skewed toward the dark blues and grays with ruddy pastel accents.
Sure, there were some smart-looking suits in the mix, but the big story here was in the aforementioned outerwear and the more casual offerings, especially the drawstring sweat pant silhouette, in evidence here in navy blue waffle weave and two options (gray and blue) with a dark blue tuxedo-style side stripe (to, you know, kick things up a half a notch). Cargo pants also had elasticized sweat-pant-like cuffs or buckles that cinched at the ankle.
Scarves bearing batik and Chinese tribal block prints provided a light counterpoint to a collection heavy on the rugged outerwear.
The scene: The J. Crew event, which took place in a reconfigured (and thankfully greatly increased in size) presentation space inside the Lincoln Center tents, served up what might be our most random NYFW celebrity sighting of the week: Carrie Brownstein (co-creator and costar of "Portlandia" with Fred Armisen) wandering about near the men's collection.
(For the record, the randomness comes from the fact that it was the J. Crew presentation -- and shouldn't be construed as a slam on her style. After all, she helped make "put a bird on it" part of the lexicon.)
She told us she's been to a few shows so far this week ("DVF and Opening Ceremony -- both of which were wonderful," she said) but that she was "mostly here to do press." That press would be to promote the next season of "Portlandia," which kicks off on Feb. 27 on IFC.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, there was this one navy and white batik scarf in the J. Crew collection and, yes, someone had "put a bird on it."
The verdict: J. Crew continues to hit the prevailing trends -- for fall and winter 2014 it's the sweatpant silhouette and the statement sweaters -- and at the same time keeps crafting the kind of compelling back stories that give a brand soul.
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