Madewell on Thursday announced two new efforts in apparel: an expansion of its men's line "beyond just the basics" and a collaboration in women's with workwear brand Dickies.
The fall menswear line features jeans (including a new "athletic fit"), T-shirts, button-downs, sweatshirts, carpenter pants, outerwear, wovens, knits, corduroy and some accessories, according to a press release emailed to Retail Dive.
The collaboration with VF Corp.-owned Dickies is a collection of 11 staple pieces including coveralls, overalls, cropped logo tees and "year-round accessories," priced $35 to $158, according to another release emailed to Retail Dive. The line is available online only on Madwell's and Dickies' websites.
Madewell has established itself as a denim-focused brand, but these collections both embrace a richer fall aesthetic, including through non-denim fabrics. More importantly for Madewell owner J. Crew, the fashion efforts further the strategy of growing the smaller — and for the moment more successful — brand, in order to correct a downward spiral.
J. Crew for months has been furiously working to grow the brand, opening stores as it closes namesake locations and shrinks operations. More recently, J. Crew has been mulling an initial public offering of Madewell to capitalize on its superior trajectory, and in April named its first chief executive.
It's not clear whether J. Crew can gee up the smaller brand enough, or quickly enough, to rescue the company. Madewell can only ramp up so fast, making cost cuts a critical way to solve J. Crew's financial woes, which include debt totaling $1.7 billion. As of May 29, there were outstanding borrowings of some $198 million under its asset-based lending facility, with excess availability of approximately $113 million. The retailer's financial situation has reportedly prompted the company to seek out another round of debt restructuring after a dramatic debt swap scheme achieved last year.
The group has intensified its expense cuts, in addition to corporate cuts this past summer. In its most recent quarter, selling, general and administrative expenses fell to $189.8 million or 32.8% of revenues, compared to $200.8 million or 37.2% of revenues in the year-ago period.
But in promoting Madewell, J. Crew also risks losing sight of its flagship brand, once an iconic fashion take on American preppy. Several major brands, including Gap and Victoria's Secret, similarly developed sub-brands in order to capture a different slice of the market, only to watch them take sales as their parents faltered.