There are still a few velvet ropes surrounding the event based at Lincoln Center for eight days, but accessibility is creeping in. (Many shows are streamed live online, for example.)
Insiders might place a few advance orders for key pieces that were previewed Tuesday, such as the rose-gold camp shirt, metallic floral polo shirt and sweatshirt-style cashmere sweaters and skinny pants that featured silver brocade on a purple background. Most people in the crowd probably rarely visit a mall or even Main Street, but they were buzzing about the outfits.
The luxury of working for J. Crew, said womenswear designer Tom Mora, is that there's room to offer new inspiring pieces that mix with the classics the brand is built on. He can fill the windows for fall with all the colours and textures he fell in love with during a trip to Marrakech, Morocco, but somewhere, on some rack, will be the boater-stripe T-shirt the customer comes back for.
"It's not all what you'd think of for fall, but all the colour and mosaic is really in our vocabulary all the time," Mora said.
He isn't too literal, so the stores won't look like an exotic travel magazine, he said, but a starting point for a collection sets an attitude and lets J. Crew have some fun in its styling.
Increasingly, he added, consumers are using the company's catalogue (now called a style guide) to get their own ideas about how to put an outfit together.
"What's crazy is that people in the past would bring in the catalogue and ask, 'Where is this sweater?' Now they're coming in and asking for the look head to toe. ... We don't dictate how to wear our clothes — it's always a suggestion — but the nice thing is people are taking the suggestion."
At the preview, models were wearing floral pencil skirts with classic British herringbone scarves. A classic double-breasted navy blazer was cropped and decorated in gold embroidery.
The menswear, even at fashion week, was a bit more tempered. Frank Muytjens is in charge of that side of the store: "It's always an evolution in menswear, never a revolution. We include the iconic pieces and update them for a modern guy, not a trendy guy."
The models on that side of the room wore a grey wool-flannel, button-down shirt, and a waxy green trench with a traditional corduroy collar. One wore a suede shirt with his tweed suit.
Muytjens said he recently returned from the British countryside. "I visited Oxford and Wales, and there was so much dignity. I wanted to take those elements home and then do what we want with it."