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Madewell paints the town denim

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At last, Madewell is ready to step out of J. Crew’s shadow. The denim-based fashion purveyor, a family-owned work wear label founded in Massachusetts in 1937 and resurrected by the J. Crew Group in 2006, is gearing up for an e-commerce launch in the spring. Madewell has always been cast as J. Crew’s edgier little sister, so it’s only fitting that J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyons would give the brand a boost by including a couple Madewell pieces (the sparkle cardigan and slim slouch jeans) in her October Jenna’s Picks feature on the J. Crew website.

But soon Madewell will have its own stylish face, to be announced in the coming weeks. Who could she be? There were plenty of contenders at the Bar Marmont last night, where Madewell and Lucky magazine celebrated the last stop of their national, in-store denim tour with lemon drop cocktails, mini lobster rolls and starlets galore, including Rachel Bilson, Lauren Conrad, Joy Bryant, Kristen Bell and Mandy Moore. Bilson’s mom, Janice (a self-proclaimed spiritualist), read tarot cards, and guests posed for photos that were made into flip books.

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Plenty of fashion industry types were there, too--L.A.'s hot new shoe designer Jerome Rousseau--just back from showing his line in Paris, Fug Girl Jessica Morgan, hair colorist Byron Williams, L.A. boutique owner Hillary Rush, and her old boss from when she was advertising director at the Gap, J. Crew Chairman and CEO Mickey Drexler.

It’s all in the family for Lucky and Madewell. Former Lucky magazine editor Gigi Guerra is the brand marketing director at Madewell now, and her quirky style seems to be the perfect match. At the party, Guerra wore a Madewell cropped knit biker jacket pinned with a Masonic pendant she picked up at a flea market. She’s helped create some interesting features on the site leading up to the e-commerce debut, including a forum for real world twenty-somethings to share how they wear the clothes, and a monthly newsletter; the October issue lists music blogger Largehearted Boy’s favorite female artists.

Guerra says that jeans are the No. 1 seller in Madewell stores (specifically the ‘ex-boyfriend’ style--love that name--and the legging jeans), followed by boots and the tasseled and fringed scarves that have been one of the brand’s cool chick mainstays from Day 1.

Guests left the party with a scarf, as well as a canvas Madewell tote and a bottle of OPI ‘Madewell to Order’ nail polish, a special dark purple mixed just for the occasion.

-- Booth Moore

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Follow fashion critic Booth Moore on Twitter.

Top photo: Kristen Bell, left, and Rachel Bilson, right, at the Lucky magazine and Madewell event Tuesday night at the Bar Marmont in Hollywood. Bell is wearing a silk tank dress and tassel scarf by Madewell. Bilson is wearing a dotted tank top by Madewell. Photo credit: WireImage


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