Good days start with great jeans. This is the tagline of Madewell — the brand you may not have heard of but that you may soon wonder how you did without.
In a nutshell, good jeans are in its genes.
High-rise skinny, demi-boot, straight-leg and boyfriend — there’s not a bad pair in the bunch. But while the perfect pair of jeans is Madewell’s bottom line, it offers so much more besides: namely, everything you would wear your trusty blues with, like cool cotton tees, easy striped shirts and keep-forever leather jackets, as well as go-to bags and shoes.
It’s also the sister brand of J Crew, and while the long-time arbiter of geek-chic on the high street has been in a slow decline since losing its creative leader Jenna Lyons last year, Madewell — which launched in 2006 — has been quietly cultivating a dedicated following among those who suddenly found themselves with a wide-open hole in their wardrobes.
“Madewell is for denim lovers — or basically anyone who appreciates timeless designs that put you at ease,” says Joyce Lee, head designer.
It’s a simple but effective philosophy and the reason why the nation’s favourite department store John Lewis has snapped up exclusive bragging rights to the brand and will be bringing it to UK turf within its new landmark 230,000sq ft Westfield White City store next week.
“The introduction of Madewell builds on our focus to provide our customers with a selection of unique brands that they cannot find anywhere else on the high street,” says Jo Bennett, head of womenswear at the department store, who adds that come autumn, the next season collection will also be rolled out to other stores nationwide.
For Madewell, which was previously only available for international shipping on the brand’s website and on Net-A-Porter.com, the decision to bring the brand to Britain was a reaction to its popularity this side of the pond.
“We’ve seen a continued demand for a physical presence from our UK customers so are excited to be finally able to provide them with a place they can experience Madewell in person,” says Lee, who also credits Madewell’s success to an active awareness of what women want from their wardrobe.
“We’re constantly reading reviews and comments that we receive on social media to better understand how we can provide for our customers,” she continues. “For denim, it means we’re always tweaking and evolving our core fits.”
Currently, its bestselling jean style is its super-high-rise skinnies — “we’re seeing from our customers that when it comes to the rise the higher the better” — which will be available in John Lewis alongside worn-in boyfriends and the aptly named “perfect summer jeans”. To celebrate the opening, American chain-stitching embroidery collective Ft Lonesome will also travel across the Atlantic to set up a customisation shop for 48 hours from next Tuesday to put a personalised stamp on your new threads.
Crucially, what makes Madewell such a hit among the mainstream is its democratic price tag. The cheapest item in the range — a bandana scarf — will set you back just £12.50, while the most expensive, a butter-soft leather jacket, is an investment at £498, but one which doesn’t require a second mortgage. A T-shirt will also cost you around £20 and jeans a not unreasonable £100.
This inclusive approach to pricing sets a precedent for an offering which fits fluently into your existing wardrobe. “Nothing we create is too precious, we want our customer to feel comfortable and put together,” says Lee.
“We feel that our approach to dressing is universal and that women want durable pieces that fit seamlessly into their lives.”