J. Crew targets plus-size business with new campaign, collaboration

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As it readies its brand for relaunch later this year, J. Crew is expanding the range of sizes it sells to target more shoppers. On Tuesday, the retailer unveiled a capsule collection with Universal Standard, a fashion brand known for its extended sizes. J. Crew is promoting the 37-piece offering with a campaign and video featuring models Clementine Desseaux and Diana Veras.

The new pieces, which range in price from $50 to $150 and in sizes from XXS to 5X, is meant to pave the way for J. Crew's general roll-out of larger sizes. The retailer has spent the last few months extending its lines to size 24, far beyond its current largest size of 14.

"Because great style and great fit are important to all of our customers, thoughtful sizing and attention to fit are at the center of our design process," Lisa Greenwald, J. Crew chief merchandising officer, said in a statement, adding that the new products will include new fits and fabrications. The new line is available online and in a dozen stores.

The chain, which has struggled with sales declines, layoffs and store closures in recent years, is in the process of relaunching its 35-year-old brand as it strives to find the best combination of price, style and fit. While J. Crew's mix-and-match method of glammed-up prep was in vogue a decade ago, such styles have more recently taken a backseat to the casual everyday wear of the brand's trendy sister label Madewell. That was evident in J. Crew's most recent quarterly earnings: For the three months ended May 5, J. Crew reported a 7 percent decline to $391.9 million in sales at its namesake label, though Madewell sales rose a whopping 39 percent to $115.8 million. Overall for the company, total revenue increased 3 percent to $540.5 million.

J. Crew spent roughly $9 million on measured media in the U.S. last year—half of its 2016 amount, according to Kantar Media. It would not say if the campaign supporting its Universal Standard collaboration was created internally or with an agency partner. (Update: The company says it created the campaign internally.)

While the brand's marketing is typically created in-house, Chief Marketing Officer Vanessa Holden told Ad Age late last year that J. Crew had begun a relationship with Laundry Service. However, a spokeswoman for the retailer said the company "does not work" with the Brooklyn-based agency. Earlier this week, Laundry Service's founder Jason Stein left the agency amid a 10 percent staff reduction.

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