Blackstock & Weber founder and creative Director, Chris Echevarria, calls his new J.Crew collab a "full circle moment." The rising American designer worked on the sales floor at the Tribeca Liquor Store — a conceptual, clubby shop opened by then J. Crew chairman, Mickey Drexler, chief men's designer, Todd Snyder, and marketing savant, Andy Spade — while he attended fashion school at FIT.
During Drexler's drop-ins, he'd ask Echeverria about brands other than his own he should be paying attention to. (It's hard to look away from your ship while you're steering it.) The Liquor Store was popular and played a pivotal role in changing how men dressed — largely for the better. Those who staffed it, Echevarria among them, were in the retail weeds helping men swap their G-Shocks for antique-looking Timexs and luxe joggers for Ludlow suits.
Eventually, Drexler and Echevarria's interactions turned into a more robust role scouting for J. Crew's In Good Company hub, a part of the company dedicated to selling collaborations and spotlighting outsider brands. This was a new idea at the time, and it's since transformed into J.Crew's Brands We Love page, where you can buy timepieces from Marathon Watch Company, New Balance sneakers, Patricks styling products, Darryl Brown pants and accessories, and head and face stuff from Huron.
Now, in 2021, a decade after his stint at J.Crew, Echevarria's exclusive new loafer will debut in the section he sort of helped establish — alongside J.Crew collabs with Alden, R.M. Williams, New Balance, Marathon Watch Company, and Reebok. Reebok aside, that's a hell of a roster. (Sorry, Reebok. I'm kidding.) It's a lineup of quality releases brand stakeholders hope will help reestablish J.Crew as the go-to retailer for men. Echevarria hopes so too, especially now that his brand's joined the club.
"I worked at J. Crew during a really exciting period. But I worked through that period into a period where it became less exciting. When you've experienced something that was that great, you're always going to think, 'I know J.Crew has this in them,' so I wanted to show that to the world in my own way," Echevarria explains. "I don't work at J.Crew corporate, I'm not the creative director; that's not my role. But if I can take what they already have," which we both agree has steadily improved season to season ahead of Brendon Babenzien's arrival in 2022, "and show them how I imagined it, how I would put it on, ways I think their clothes look really cool, I want that opportunity more than anything... because J.Crew may tend to skew a bit safe but it's never been forgotten."
Pair Echevarria's loafers — officially called The Ellis Penny Loafer Exclusively for J. Crew in Caramel Spotted Pony and Caramel Suede — with J. Crew clothes from just this season and everything changes. J.Crew clothes look cool again. And that's reason to celebrate — for Echevarria, too, beyond his ambitions for his own brand.
"I say this over and over, but my days at J. Crew were very important to where I am today. I think that without them, and my time there, there may not have been a Blackstock & Weber," he says. "It's super cool for me to be able to do something like this with a brand I have history with."