NEW YORK CITY -- Former J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson has taken a lot of slack for his mismanagement of the 100-plus year old retail chain -- and rightfully so. In a matter of months, his changes to everything from store coupons and merchandise presentation to return policies cost the company billions, leaving it crippled and crawling to make a comeback after his departure earlier this year.
But if there was a bright spot in his brief tenure, it was the additions made to the department store's fashion offerings. In the past year, J.C. Penney has caught up with competitors such as Macy's and Kohl's, which had been beefing up their racks with capsule collections by some of fashion's top designers, by collaborating with style staples like Duro Olowu, Nanette Lepore and Marchesa on special lines. I also have to thank J.C. Penney for introducing me to Joe Fresh, a Canadian-based brand with which JCP secured an exclusive in the United States.
I regularly find myself frustrated while shopping. The eternal search to find the right fit (often a struggle, thanks to vanity sizing), something well made, on trend yet versatile and affordable have dashed my hopes for a prosperous shopping day on several occasions.
Discovering Joe Fresh solved so many of these problems for me. The sizing is consistent and figure flattering, apparel is on trend (but not trendy) and feels good against the skin and the prices for most pieces are well below $100. When I recently had the opportunity to interview Joe Fresh creator Joe Minram, he explained that he makes a point to work with fabrics that have good weight and feel good to the touch, not sacrificing quality to create reasonably priced collections.
While researching the brand in preparation for the interview, I learned about the handful of Joe Fresh stores in New York City. So when I had a little free time before catching my bus home to Pittsburgh after covering New York Fashion Week, I knew where I wanted to go -- Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street, home to all-things Joe Fresh.
The two-story glass building featured mannequins in the window wearing the Parisian chic-yet-tough girl-inspired fall collection of black and white-heavy apparel, softened up with a smattering of stripes and polka dots.
Inside was clean and bright with separate sections for the brand's activewear, accessories, women's clothes and menswear. Another staple of Joe Fresh are pops of colors that can be incorporated with a wardrobe's neutral solids or patterns. Racks and racks of bright monochrome tops and bottoms filled another section.
The only down side? I couldn't buy all the things I wanted because I didn't have enough room in my luggage to take it home.