J. Crew is struggling. The clothing retailer reported two quarters of losses, and sales plummeted 10% last quarter compared with a year ago. One of the problems? Bad design. Boxy, unflattering silhouettes and inconsistent sizing have repelled the brand’s once fiercely loyal customers.
The brand has announced that it’s replacing head of women’s design, Tom Mora, with Somsack Sikhounmuong, previously head of design for J. Crew’s spinoff brand Madewell. Joyce Lee, a member of Madewell’s design team who has worked at Marc Jacobs and MIchael Kors, will step up to lead Madewell. J. Crew will also lay off 175 corporate employees.
The change in design leadership has a compelling logic. Madewell, which sells hip, comfortable clothes that focus on fit, has been thriving. Last quarter, the brand’s sales jumped 33% over the previous year. Why wouldn’t J. Crew want to siphon off some of Madewell’s mojo? Though not everyone is convinced that smart design at one label can so easily be transferred somewhere else. We’ll just have to wait and see.