With its catalogue photographs of pretty models wearing pre-washed twills and polo shirts, playing in the ocean or on boats, visiting an actual J. Crew store promises to be fun. Finding prep central--the catalogue company's sole Southern California retail store--isn't always fun.
South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa has become as big as LAX, but it doesn't have the roadside directories to guide you to the right parking area. You can drive around and around, but it won't get you closer to those rugged, weathered classics. If you haven't phoned for directions, you'll have to get out of the car and hunt, on foot, as if you were on a fashion safari. Two hints: park behind Nordstrom or Bullock's and take the escalator to level two. The store address is No. 2240.
Even with that information, it's still a long walk, with plenty of detours along the way. No one ever said shopping was easy. At last, there is actually a J. Crew store at the end of the search, minus the Madison Avenue models. One recent weekend, a shopper's mother accompanied her on the voyage. On arrival, she promptly found a seat in a nice cushy club chair and--honest--fell asleep.