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Tracee Ellis Ross Is The Face Of J.Crew’s Fall Campaign—And Their New Look

Tracee Ellis Ross in the J.Crew fall campaign

Courtesy of J.Crew

In case you needed more proof that fashion is cyclical, J.Crew is proving that in the chicest way: By making Tracee Ellis Ross the face of their new fall campaign. “I am an old school J.Crew girl; that was my main source of shopping all through college,” Ross, the star of Black-ish and founder of curly hair brand Pattern Beauty, says. “J.Crew represents that fashionable version of the staples, like the great colored sweater that’s functional, soft and perfect. When you fall in love with something, you can get it in every color. We all know I love high end fashion, but on a daily basis, you need clothes that you can wear, so I am a J.Crew gal through and through.”

The new fall collection and ad campaign, dubbed “Make A Scene,” marks a new milestone for J.Crew. It’s the debut women’s collection under Executive Vice President of Women’s Design Olympia Gayot, which pays homage to the classic all-American J.Crew aesthetic while giving the brand a fresh feel. Gayot, who worked at J.Crew earlier in her career, also infused her experience in the fine arts and styling world into the collection.

“I looked at J.Crew holistically and on a macro level to see what things we can bring into the future,” Gayot says. “It was definitely important to honor J.Crew’s heritage while simultaneously pushing the aesthetic forward with a more modern, relevant lens. In some cases, that meant preserving and honoring classics, and other times really evolving them or completely reinventing them. J.Crew has always been at the forefront of experimentation and creativity and our customer continues to evolve. The industry continues to evolve. That’s what fashion is. It’s time for us to do that and change with the times.”

Tracee Ellis Ross in the J.Crew fall campaign

Courtesy of J.Crew

Cashmere has always been a cornerstone of the brand, for example, so they upgraded the quality. “There were so many classic shapes that existed in the past, so we took a hard look at all of those. We changed the proportions and nuances and created this really broad, beautiful, very flattering color palette that has a lot of highs and lows and warm and cool tones, so that we have a range of colors for you to choose from. Another good example is we’ve kept the iconic trench that we’ve had in the line for 10 years, so it’s there for the customer who wants the original classic trench, and then we added it onto new shapes. There’s one that’s longer and leaner and really minimal, and one that’s a little bit relaxed and slightly oversized and comes in a heavier canvas. The denim trench is a great example of an item that’s very classic, but also important in fashion and always on trend. The shape of that item really affects how you look in it. We have a few new, really great suits in the line. There’s such a long history of women wearing suits in different ways. For me, it’s always represented a sense of boundary pushing.”

Creating clothes and accessories that celebrate the needs of complex and creative women was at the heart of the collection. Every piece is all about the freedom of self-expression and optimism. “From the smallest detail that we’re putting into a garment to the overall end use and dynamic lifestyle of women, it’s really about creativity,” Gayot says. “That will affect the color, patterns and styling for a woman that has 100 different places to go.”

That certainly spoke to Ross. “I wear the glamorous gowns and all those things, but on a daily basis in my life I’m moving through my day and I still like to get dressed and feel bold, sexy and chic and have a great look, and J.Crew is able to fill in in all those ways,” she says. “You want things that feel good on your skin that not only look great, but feel great.”

J.Crew Executive Vice President of Women’s Design Olympia Gayot

Courtesy of J.Crew

As an actor, director, producer and CEO, Ross was the perfect face for a collection made for the multidimensional women Gayot described. “I love Tracee; she has such incredible style,” Gayot says. “When I look at her and see how she wears clothes, that was really, really exciting to me. She loves to wear suits; she does it in such a commanding, incredible way. She also loves to wear colorful dresses—she does color so well. We tried pick the clothes that she would be wearing based off of what I know she actually likes to wear so that she felt comfortable and it felt like it was her. She’s such a multifaceted individual. She’s so talented as an actress, she’s a CEO. She’s so much more. She’s incredibly hilarious. She’s optimistic, she embraces creativity, and she felt like a really natural fit for us.”

The “Make A Scene” campaign stars Ross and ensemble cast, and was shot in a Paramount lot meant to resemble New York City streets, with choreography that spanned dancing to playing basketball, all set to a vibrant soundtrack. Ross asked to work with one of her favorite photographers, Micaiah Carter. “There is a way that Micaiah shoots that really captures who you are that I love,” Ross says. “It’s like he sees me the way I see me. I knew that it would be a really joyous, easy shoot that would reflect everything that J.Crew is about—identity and a sense of self and the ability to be yourself.”

For Ross, J.Crew stands for the ultimate iconic American brand. “It represents empowered and effortless style, and everything from bold colors to wearable suits,” she says. “I keep coming back to this wearable thing because you want to look great but you also want to be able to wear something all day and not be like oh my god it’s pulling on me or it doesn’t feel good on my body. I was thinking about one of the pieces that I wore [in the commercial], which I am obsessed with. It was a very fine cream corduroy suit. It was the perfect fabric and so easy to put on. You can dress it up, dress down, you can put a belt over it. You can layer it. It was such a great, easy suit.”

Tracee Ellis Ross in the J.Crew fall campaign

Courtesy of J.Crew

That’s exactly what Gayot and the new J.Crew are all about. “I always come back to the woman herself,” Gayot says. “Going through all my years of getting dressed myself for the different points of my life, I tie clothing a lot to particular moments in my life, as I think many women do. There are so many ways you can dress depending on what you’re doing in your day, or where you’re at in your life. Every time we design something, we really think about why is she wearing this? Who is this for? Do these shapes flatter all body types?”

One of the reasons Ross was excited to join the J.Crew campaign is because how naturally the clothes and accessories fit her personal style. “I don’t adhere to this idea of a high-low mix,” she says. “I go for what makes my heart sing. Some of my favorite pieces in my closet are what some would call low end in terms of cost, but they stand up with the best of the other stuff. I like clothes that I can wear that don’t wear me, that I can mix and match and wear over and over again, that stand the test of time in my closet and that continue to evolve as I evolve. That’s one of the things I love about J.Crew—their clothes grow with you.”

Ultimately, the “Make A Scene” campaign and fall collection are the future of J.Crew. “This is a new chapter for us and this September collection is the first page of the next chapter,” Gayot says. “We’re going to be introducing a lot of really exciting collaborations, with small designers and fine artists. That’s a great way for people to come in and show us what they think of the brand through their eyes. In the coming seasons, there’s going to be more emphasis on creativity, a distinct styling point of view, and lots more color, new proportions, but also always playing off of that classic heritage.”

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