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J.Crew unravels further, losing its longtime leader Mickey Drexler

J.Crew unravels further, losing its longtime leader Mickey Drexler
[Photo: Michael Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times]

The blows keep coming for J.Crew, the classic American apparel brand.

The brand has been on a slow decline for several years, with diminishing sales and profits since 2015. In 2017, J.Crew’s iconic creative director Jenna Lyons left the company, and 250 employees were fired as a cost-cutting measure. Mickey Drexler, the brand’s CEO since 2002, stepped down shortly thereafter, although he stayed on as chairman of the board. But now Drexler is stepping down from that role, too.

Drexler, who is 74, is known for his success at building brands like Ann Taylor and Gap Inc. in the 1990s. But over the last few years, he appears to have lost his magic touch. Drexler was instrumental in bringing on Jim Brett, who previously led West Elm and URBN, Inc., as the new CEO. Brett’s turnaround plan was to make J.Crew more accessible, both in terms of price and distribution. He helped launched several inexpensive lines within the J.Crew collection and made some clothes available on Amazon. While the brand saw an increase in sales, some customers complained on social media that they did not like its new direction.

Brett left the company last November, after only a year and a half, with no successor. And now that Drexler is departing from the board, there appears to be a leadership void. And Business of Fashion reports that the company is operating at a loss, and has $566.5 million in debt, which will come to maturity in 2021.

It’s unclear what will come next for J.Crew, which has been a fixture of American fashion for the last three decades. But the company’s next leader will have a challenging path ahead.

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