J. Crew files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after thriving in one era and failing to adapt to the next one.

WHAT HAPPENED: J.Crew filled for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week as it struggles to pay down its $1.7 billion debt. The brand confirms that its online store will continue to operate as usual and while it plans to open all Madewell and J.Crew locations when the lockdown is over, it’s unclear how many of its 500 stores will stay in business.

WHY IT MATTERS

J.Crew’s appeal to both fashion-conscious and mass-market consumers originally positioned the brand for success, but its consistent shift away from this value proposition ultimately led to its downfall. The brand’s golden years between 2011 and 2015, under the helm of Mickey Drexler as CEO and Jenna Lyons leading design, made J.Crew more than a mall brand. But with their departure in 2017 and a string of short-lived executives and creative directors, the brand’s identity became less aspirational and more confused. Additionally, the disproportionate pricing and the rise of direct-to-consumer brands like Everlane and Reformation caused former J.Crew loyalists to flee. Regardless of whether J.Crew survives this period and continues to operate as a brand, its failure to reinvent itself in recent years leaves the company in an increasingly precarious position.