J.Crew’s President and Creative Director, Jenna Lyons, at New York Fashion Week.
Someone at the New York Post really has it out for Jenna Lyons. In December, the newspaper took J.Crew’s President and Creative Director to task for an active social life. A source told Page Six, “J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler is tired of Jenna Lyons being out on the circuit and not paying attention to business.” Today, they write that shoppers blame Lyons for the “out of touch” brand and its “out-there accessories,” and that loyal customers long for the days of pleated khakis and cotton polo shirts. The paper points out that J.Crew went from profits of over $35 million to losses in the $600 million range in just a year—and then blames it on Lyons. You don’t need a business degree to realize that’s ridiculous.
For starters, Lyons has worked at J.Crew for over 20 years. She’s been the public face of the company for at least six, since Michelle Obama and her daughters started wearing the brand on the campaign trail. She took what was basically a more expensive Gap and turned it into a fashion force—one that was taken seriously by both Anna Wintour and sorority girls in the Midwest. Who else can say that? But what goes up must come down and given J.Crew’s soaring sales over the past few years, it makes sense that things are starting to falter. What doesn’t make sense is blaming it on one person. The complaining customers blame Lyons not just for J.Crew’s high-fashions, but for its higher than usual costs, which the creative director doesn’t set. J.Crew might sell a $358 fringed skirt from its collection, but it does still sell a $22 cotton tank. The higher prices indicate the wider variety of products—and quality.
J.Crew’s a retail business, and given how many of those have nearly (if not entirely) shut down in the past year, you could say it should be applauded just for surviving. As Lauren Sherman wrote on this site in December, “Retail is an inherently effed up business. Trends come and go, and while Lyons is grounded in what she likes, the masses seem to be moving on. Right now, J.Crew’s product assortment is clearly not on the mark.”
Which is why CEO Mickey Drexler has made it very clear that he’s heard his customers loud and clear. On the company’s earnings call last month he said, “Needless to say, it’s been a tough year for us and the numbers speak to that. First and foremost, I and our team own that.” As for the “out there” fashions scaring customers away, Drexler added, “We’re getting back to who we are in a much quicker way.”
We hope Lyons remains influential though. There has to be a happy medium between the J.Crew circa its Dawson’s Creek catalog and the J.Crew circa its $3000 coats. And we can’t be the only ones still counting Lyons among our style icons.