Jenna Lyons is exiting J. Crew after a 26-year career with the brand that started when she was just 21 and saw her rise to both Creative Director and President. J. Crew CEO Millard “Mickey” Drexler revealed the news to Business of Fashion, painting the move as a mutual decision.
“Jenna and I got together and we both agreed it was time for a change,” he told the publication. “That being said, she’s got plans to do other things. It’s been a great run. There’s a lot of mutual respect between Jenna and me.”
Lyons became Creative Director in 2008 and not soon after became President in 2010. The high profile and celebrity she achieved through the gig was almost unheard of for the Creative Director of a main street, accessible brand like J. Crew. She became a street style star and occasional target of the gossip pages, and served almost as something of a mascot for the brand and embodiment of the J. Crew women. She appeared occasionally in the brand’s social media accounts and it’s catalogs (in 2011, a catalog image of Lyons holding her sons foot, with toenails painted in bright pink, cause a particularly retrograde controversy in some circles). Her personality seeped into all facets of the brands. Her offbeat pet nickname for shoes, “Shiny Ponies,” for example, became a key part of the brand’s advertising as well.
Yet, Lyons’ unique profile didn’t make J. Crew immune to many of the same problem of its closest competitors. With customers craving fast fashion and deep discounts, J. Crew and its ilk have struggled. BOF points out that sales were down 6 percent in 2016.
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J.Crew women’s head of design Somsack Sikhounmuong will be promoted to the role of Chief Design Officer. Sikhounmuong has also previously served as head of women’s wear at J. Crew’s sister brand, Madewell, which has performed better in recent years. Talk of Sikhounmoung perhaps someday succeeding Lyons began almost after he made the move between brands in 2015.
Lyons, of course, issued her own statement, and seems to have new projects in the works.
“It has been beyond my wildest dreams to work with such an amazing team of people at such an incredible brand and alongside Mickey — one of retail’s most talented visionaries,” Lyons said in a statement. “I am excited about the next chapter for J.Crew as well as the opportunity for other creative leaders within the organization to step up and take on new responsibilities. Having spent the better part of my life with J.Crew, I feel an immense pride and love for everyone at the company.”
Jenna Lyons had been at J. Crew her entire professional career, beginning as a recent college graduate in 1990 and tasked with designing rugby shirts. Her position in the company began rising when Drexler, the man who formerly ran Gap, joined the company in 2003. For a while, the partnership worked wonders, but both businessmen and fashionista have noticed that the magic had worn off in the past couple of years.
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