US retailer J.Crew recently launched here in Hong Kong to great fanfare and the kind of Instagram publicity-bomb that only plying the ever-peckish media with free bao can generate. But it seems that the new additions to Central’s IFC Mall (ladies) and On Lan Street (gents) haven’t been met with universally open arms.
So what gives? Well, if you’re anything over a US 6 /UK 10, then probably your seams.
J.Crew have decided to stock their stores with smaller sizes only, at least for now, creating a brand new size 000 / UK 0 especially for their launch into the slimline Hong Kong market. Compare this with their US stores, where sizes run from a US 0 / UK 2 up to a US 20 / UK 24, and you’ll see that the new outpost seems to be working on the assumption that all Hong Kongers are super-slim and that a wider selection of sizing is unnecessary in a town where we all chow down daily on steamed vegetables with chopsticks.
Putting aside for a moment that this is absolute nonsense, (seriously, have you ever eaten in a cha chaan teng? Condensed milk toast and spam noodles are not diet foods), J.Crew’s size-blindness is a risky strategy when you consider that the target demographic for their preppy, slightly conservative and actually pretty spendy clothes is likely to be older women, say, in their late 20s to 40s. Perhaps women who may have had a child and are no longer zipping up their Toothpick Skinnies with quite the same ease that they once did. Women with a reasonable amount of disposable income that they’d love to offload in the newly opened J.Crew store, if only they had the opportunity…
Ok, so I’m obviously projecting here, and let’s be very clear that this is in no way one of those nauseating ‘real women have curves’ rants (an oft-repeated and essentially misogynistic concept that is both patronising as hell to curvier women and utterly offensive to slimmer women, who certainly qualify as ‘real’ – whatever that even means).
Neither is this (just) a whining rant by a podgy expat. I appreciate that Chinese ladies tend, on average, to lean towards the petite, however a quick straw poll of my HK friends from across a range of ethnic backgrounds suggests that the inability to find a decent fit here in the Fragrant Harbour is not just a white girl’s issue.
So what to do? Interest piqued, I popped into J.Crew yesterday morning to check out the goods for myself, and the shop assistant (apologetic, slightly dejected-looking… I feel she may have answered this question once too often this week) confirmed that while theoretically the store carries up to a size 8 / UK 12 in some lines, the vast majority of the stock tops off at a size 6. She wasn’t able to confirm if, or when, any larger sizes might materialise, and her suggestion to check out the J.Crew website seemed to be rather at odds with the opening of a physical store in Hong Kong. So no real solution, other than to do what you were probably doing already if you like J.Crew – order online from the US, at considerably cheaper prices.
As a point of comparison, Topshop – another much-vaunted and relatively recent addition to our shores – offers sizes up to US 12 / UK 16, as does Kate Spade, while Club Monaco carry items up to US 10/ UK 14. What do they see that J.Crew don’t (other than, presumably, big fat dollar signs)?
Of course, you can’t please everyone, and I’m sure that a few alienated would-be shoppers are unlikely to cause the brand too many sleepless nights. But it’s a shame that such a major fashion player seems not to have bothered to send an advance scouting party across the Pacific for a little market research before setting up shop in IFC, where the footfall tends to be both spend-happy and international, with all the varying shapes and sizes that entails.