On Shopping: Ca$hmere, or why I’m not shopping at J.Crew anymore

A couple of months ago, in a rare move outside of my black cardi comfort zone, I bought this cashmere cardi online at J.Crew:


It was on sale, there was some kind of further promotion that may or may not have involved free shipping (rare to Canada) and I had long admired the colour and cut of these very cardigans in action on the exquisite and (sadly) now defunct  blog Orchids in Buttonholes.

When it arrived I was mildly disappointed that the colour was not quite what had been represented on-line–I was expecting a wine-dark purple and this is more grape juice than wine–but that is the nature of the beast of on-line shopping.  And it is still a lovely colour.  And the cut and the pearly buttons are just 50s enough to thrill me to the core.  In fact, the first time I wore it, with a pencil skirt of course, one of my colleagues remarked on my Mad Men aesthetic.  Dorky FTW, or so I thought.

After a single wearing, and not even a long day’s wear, there was a lot of pilling.  Too much for the price tag, even the sale price tag, of the sweater.  So I made enquiries at J.Crew and was told that pilling is a natural process for natural fibres.

Bullshit, J.Crew.  Do you think I’m some kind of idiot?  Pilling might be inevitable with natural fibres, but tightness of weave and knit in quality products should prevent pilling for some time.  And this amount of pilling after one wear is unacceptable.  The sweater, now a couple of months old, is so covered in pills that it looks shabby.

J.Crew has lost my custom.  And not just because of this experience, though this sealed the deal.  Items on the Canadian site are more expensive, apparently because the company is offloading the cost of producing a French site onto the consumer, but I am more bothered by the fact that J.Crew does not allow for customer reviews.  Had I known that this sweater would pill like it did, I would not have bought it, even on sale.  Little wonder that they want their customers to remain silent.

We are breaking up, J.Crew.  It was a very brief fling that began with your giddy entree into the Canadian market but this Canadian is worth more than you have to offer.*

But there is some good news.  I have had nothing but great customer service from Golightly Cashmere** (who I found thanks to a review on Passage des Perles).

I’ve had this Golightly Cashmere hat for two years.  I wear it every day of the winter and still no pilling. It’s really hard to take a picture of yourself in a hat, as it turns out.

I’ve had these Golightly Cashmere Arm Warmers for about the same amount of time.  I wear them almost everyday, indoors and out.  No pilling.  Plus hipster cred. And warm zombie arms.

Both Amid Privilege and Passage des Perles swear by Brora and Eric Bompard.  Not much more expensive than the full-price cardis at J.Crew and probably well worth the extra.  I’m saving up, and waiting for the sales.

Because I’m worth it.

Did you miss me StyleNation?

* To be fair, I don’t hate this shirt.

**This is an independent endorsement.  Golightly Cashmere doesn’t even know I blog.  Neither does my Mum.

23 thoughts on “On Shopping: Ca$hmere, or why I’m not shopping at J.Crew anymore

  1. Boo and hiss. Excellent alertage, D-Med.

    Also, you have arm warmers? You are way cooler than I could ever dream of being. Seriously: how about you do a blog post on how to wear arm warmers. Inquiring minds want to know.

  2. I’m a big fan of Macy’s house brand, Charter Club, for cashmere. Even at full price it is pretty reasonable, and on eBay amazing bargains are to be had.

    That purple cardi is such a beautiful color; what a shame it pilled up on you 😦

    • I’m not familiar with that brand (no Macy’s here) but that is good to know. I’ve heard that Land’s End isn’t bad for cashmere either and in the vicinity of affordable.

      And J.Crew does have a beautiful array of colours on offer. I think that’s what rankles; it’s such a lovely sweater in all other respects but for the one that matters most.

      • So, I think Land’s End is tricky–their sweaters can be a bit boxy, which is a problem for me because I am super curvy and a bit heavy. So something boxy eliminates any waist at all. Being long and lean, it might work a touch better for you….

    • Urgh. Even on sale with Canadian prices, delivery and HST the sticker shock of shopping there is just too much. It might be worth it if it was a dependable brand but if they can’t even make a quality t-shirt …

      • The material is just very light–I have had several t-shirts develop runs, as if they were nylons! I can remember them being a pricey but solid brand, something like Banana Republic level quality, but now, I think of them as a location for bridesmaid’s dresses and nothing else.

  3. Yay D-Med, back in action!

    I have been intermittently ranting about the decreasing quality of sweaters. I had a J. Crew wool sweater in the 90s and it wore beautifully, but it sounds like they’ve switched over to cheaper fibers. It seems like most of the mainstream retailers have started using crap wool while keeping their prices the same. As a longtime devotee of sweaters and cardigans, this gives me RAGE.

    Ahem. Yes, I have some issues.

    I am seriously coveting your arm warmers! So awesome! I have zombie hands, though, so in winter I’d always be putting mittens over them to go outside. How does that work, in your esteemed experience? Seems like it might just be extra-toasty, and that’s a nice feeling, but if there’s bunching it might not be worth it. Please advise.

    • Oh yeah, in the winter I need full-on mittens. I mostly wear the arm warmers indoors, or outside in the spring with my three-quarter sleeve jacket (seriously, why would anyone make outerwear with a three-quarter sleeve? Why would anyone buy outerwear with a three-quarter sleeve? Gah.). I have a longer pair that I always bring with me to the archives, where it’s freezing. Portable sleeves! And no bunching! They’re sort of elasticy and totally stay put. I heart them so much.

      • Okay, I’m sold. I will have to pick up a pair, maybe at one of the hipster-crafty seasonal craft fairs or something. I fear if I break the seal with Golightly Cashmere (who I’ve long admired based almost entirely on their teensy yet elegant ads in The New Yorker) I will have to sell one of the children in order to pay my Visa bill.

        I actually hate 3/4 length sleeves in both jackets and shirts, but I have always admired the way such a jacket looks with long gloves. So you win!

        Why are archives always freezing? Is it part of the Cult of the Archivist, one of the many little jokes they like to play on the rest of us?

        • Yeah, Golightly Cashmere is very spendy, but I wear my stuff from there almost daily so for me it was worth it, especially because I have no children to sell. When I was in Iceland (in the airport on a layover) I saw these amazing felted arm-warmers but I had no idea how much they cost because I had no idea what the exchange rate was. To this day I have no idea how much I actually spent on a sammie and a yogurt in that airport and I’m sort of afraid to find out.

          Archives are cold because it is better for the materials held in the archives (not entirely sure why). I actually had an archivist tell me that they cared more about the documents than the people using them and that is pretty much true. As it should be.

          • I have been to that airport, also on layover, and I really really wanted to buy all sorts of wool stuff and jewelry at the Icelandic Design boutique they have. Seriously, that airport is gorgeous. Instead we bought food and several bars of Sirius (Icelandic) chocolate, which is delish. I have no idea how much any of it cost either, and since their currency has since collapsed we’ll never find out.

            Cold archives make total sense, as do cold archivists.

  4. I’m sorry to hear you had such a bad experience with your JCrew cashmere. I bought their longer v-neck cardigan (boyfriend style?) on sale and during our state’s “tax free days”. I loved the bright blue color and I have worn it at least once a week since September and fortunately it hasn’t really pilled. The one or two big pills I see after I wear it, I simply pull off (which I realize is probably the wrong way to de-pill). It must be made from different yarn than your cardigan.

    • Oh, I’m glad you didn’t have the same experience as I had. You’re right–J.Crew has gorgeous colours and cuts in all things, especially the cashmere. Still, my experience has been so disappointing that it’s not worth it for me to try again.

      I think you are supposed to just pull off pills? I know you can get a sort of pumice stone thing that is supposed to de-fuzz sweaters, which must do the same thing?

  5. D-Med, I have your exact pain in the shape of a pumpkin, short sleeve J,Crew cardi I bought in New York in 2009. I loved everything about it except actually wearing it, when it transformed into a big soft cluster of pills. I’d never seen cashmere disintegrate like it. Very disappointing – and it wasn’t on sale when I bought it. I can vouch for the integrity of Brora cashmere knits; I bought one back in 1999 in London and it is still soft, fluffy and entirely unpilled. J.Crew broke my cardigan loving heart; I’ve never felt quite the same about them and remain relieved they won’t ship to Australia. The quirky styling of their catalogues makes me a weak woman. And I have missed you a lot, although E Jo and A Dubs have run a tight ship, ably assisted by their eminently stylish hounds.

    • Well, this confirms what I suspected, that the cardi is poor quality and not defective and so also confirms my boycott of J.Crew. I agree that their catalogues are exquisitely styled, though, and they make me think that I am a tall and willowy blonde (I am not) but, honestly, why so many? I think I get an entirely new catalogue from J.Crew almost every month. I can’t help but wonder if their prices would be lower, and more in keeping with the quality of their clothes, if they didn’t produce and mail out so many catalogues.

      And, yes, A-Dubs and E Jo are stellar style bloggers and capable academics at the same time–something I seem to find overwhelming. But clearly this blog needs more cats. I’m on it.

  6. What a bummer about the J. Crew cardigan! It’s too bad they won’t just take their pilling sweater back, since it’s obviously defective, or even give you some sort of credit – anything beyond telling you that it’s “normal.” But at least you’ve found some good quality cashmere elsewhere.

    I also don’t shop at J. Crew (totally unrelated), and I’ll continue not to as well!

    • Well, because it was on sale when I bought it there are no refunds or exchanges, which I knew. I don’t think it’s defective so much as it is poor quality. And I just noticed that in my post on black cardigans my other J.Crew cardigan (which I have since consigned) also pilled badly after one day’s wear. Apparently I totally forgot. Blergh.

  7. Yay!! Welcome back D-Med! It’s too bad that cardigan pilled so badly — and so ludicrously quickly — as it’s such a great color on you. I plan to continue my not-shopping at J.Crew in solidarity!

    In happier news, those cashmere arm warmers look like possibly the greatest things ever.

    • They are the greatest things ever. I also have an opera-length pair in burgundy that I used to wear all of the time–totally more useful and portable than a sweater–until I moved and now I can’t find them. They’re here somewhere, along with a lot of other things that I can’t find. Including my tripod.

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