The Real Story Behind Madewell’s “Heritage”

madewell-1Photo: Courtesy of Madewell.
From a French couture house’s storied beginnings to an indie label making clothes out of a tiny New York apartment, the history of a fashion brand is important. These roots not only individualize the companies — their values, ideals, and goals — they also provide a connection to the customer based on a sense of authenticity. But, what if the story is just that — a story? Just ask Dan Nosowitz, who claims on Buzzfeed that Madewell stole the story of his family’s all-American clothing company and is currently using it as its own.
The brand we know today was born in 2006 as J.Crew’s cool sister-label, but the real Madewell actually began much earlier than that. Back in 1937, Nosowitz’s great-grandfather started his no-frills business, making workwear like heavy-duty pants and corduroy-lined jackets. Fast-forward a couple of decades, to when the original Madewell factory closes down; J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler learns about the line, purchases the trademark, logo… and the story itself.
As Nosowitz tells Buzzfeed, “Mickey Drexler, in creating J.Crew’s new womenswear stores, shrewdly read the market and realized that stocking nice clothes wouldn’t be enough: He’d have to tell a story along with them. Drexler didn’t have any stories, so he bought ours.” Judging from Madewell’s success (77 stores across the US, and growing), having a story sells. Bonus points if it’s one that relates to simpler, “sepia-hued” times, as Madewell’s does.
Just like other down-home labels like Levi’s and L.L. Bean, Madewell is inspired by cool, classic Americana. However, unlike these other brands, in which the original family has a stake in the business, nobody related to the original Madewell company is still involved.
Nosowitz doesn't glorify the original product (“We didn’t do too much of that designing bullshit,” his great-uncle said), but the question really is, should this faux authenticity affect the way we shop? When all you want is durable, long-lasting closet essentials, how much does a history matter? (Buzzfeed)

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