Back to School with J. Crew: A Lesson in Marketing a Cane

Posted on September 2, 2014

Hello friend! You know the drill. I’m trying to change the world and I need your help. Will you consider signing #YesJCrewCane before or after reading this post? It can be done in less than 30 seconds.

Dear J. Crew,

It’s back to school season and I am geared up! Were I a first year at Hogwarts, I would be eager to visit Ollivanders for a wand fitting. My wand would be the one with the Phoenix Feather, it would fit like a glove in the palm of my hand. Mr. Ollivander does more than just fit each wizard with a wand; he provides an experience to be rivaled only by Sorting Hat jitters or the excitement of a Quidditch match.

Ollivanders J. Crew

I’ve often envisioned the marketing of canes to rival that of Ollivanders wand shop. Unfortunately the actual experience is much different. There is no experience. There is no excitement. There are very few options. There is only defeat. And coping. And the struggle to reassess your identity.

J. Crew Cane Fitting

(Thank you sir for the demonstration. Oh, and nice mustache.)

…Being that it is back to school season, I find myself entering your stores, visiting your website and browsing your catalog with much more zeal. And you know this, because you’re marketing a ‘J. Crew experience’. The folding, the packaging, the thought put into every aspect of my purchase ensures I will take greater care of my new pants or shirt or accessory. The respect you have for your customers gives us the opportunity to respect and care for our J. Crew clothing items.

J. Crew back to school

When I think about this model of respect, I think about the tribute you could pay your consumers who may need a little something extra. In this case, a cane. Is it truly a valid business model to not include something because it would be difficult to do so? My first days with my first cane involved reflection, transition, and change (of pace and of mind). And I know that were I given the option, I would have chosen to never need a cane. But that’s me. And you are better than me. You choosing to include a cane alongside your collection of covetable items would pay homage to the difficult life changes some of your customers have had to make. It would give us something to embrace.

J. Crew Cane

I find it so interesting that your website has a link for eyewear. Why did you choose to separate ‘EYEWEAR’ from every other category? I understand a pair of eyeglasses wouldn’t fit in the shoe section, but why not in accessories? Is this your acknowledgement that eyeglasses are not an accessory but an assistive device? Would it be so hard to change ‘EYEWEAR’ to a link encompassing more than just one type of assistive device? I understand that Assistive Device is sort of a dreary word, but you’re J. Crew, you have the ability to pick the word. You could be known for that.

Eyewear J. Crew

So it makes me wonder. If you sold a cane alongside your eyeglasses, what would you rename the ‘EYEWEAR’ to? I’d so love to know. I’d call it that forever.

I also want to warn you. It is back to school season. And I’m a student eager to learn. I look forward to sharing all of the disability, inclusion, ableism, design and fashion lessons I learn as I continue to write letters to you.

j. crew the future of disability in america

A quick final note: I hope you will give Darryl a moment of your thoughts. He will be getting his leg amputated later this month. But where you may see it as losing a leg, he sees it as gaining freedom. He’s a cool guy and deserves your smiles.


Your friend,

Liz Jackson
The Girl with the Purple Cane

P.S. I got this email from you and I’m a bit perplexed. Do you want more of my opinions?

J. Crew Feedback

 P.P.S. Did you sign? Have you signed? Will you sign?

What Others Are Saying

  1. Kira September 28, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Why would you draw a cane on the JCrew innocent girl? You can make your point, but making some drawings over child is very inappropriate. I think you should take that down.

    • The Girl with the Purple Cane September 28, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Kira. Are you concerned with the fact that I drew on a child or is it what I drew on the child (a cane) that offends you?

      • Kira October 10, 2014 at 3:32 pm

        My question was “why would you draw…(cane, bike, braces, etc) on a child. No one takes your picture and draws a pad, wheel chair, etc on you. Inappropriate.

        • The Girl with the Purple Cane October 10, 2014 at 3:51 pm

          Thank you for your response. I understand you may feel some discomfort that I added a cane to a photo of a child model. I am so curious about your feelings on my message. Do you feel that you would have written in and commented had I drawn a bike on one of the children in J. Crew’s catalog?

          • Kira October 12, 2014 at 3:40 am

            Bike or a third eye, doesn’t matter. I would of.

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