Two months after J.Crew’s much-beloved president and creative director Jenna Lyons left the company, WWD reported on Monday that the company's CEO Millard “Mickey” Drexler is also stepping down. Replacing him will be James Brett, the current president of furniture retailer West Elm.
Brett has also held leadership positions at Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and JC Penney. Though his background seems to be largely contained to home and decor, he was responsible for some of the first Urban Outfitters collaborations that made the retailer successful in the late 2000s.
"I have been here for 14 years," Drexler tells WWD. "I thought it was time to move on and lessen up on the day to day. The plan had been in motion for some time. I told the board a year ago I was ready."
Drexler himself has been credited with turning around three struggling brands — Ann Taylor in the ‘80s, Gap in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and finally, J.Crew in the early 2000s. Called the "Merchant Prince" by the media, his Midas touch has been the subject of much intrigue; his in-office quirks, hands-on leadership style, and insistent intimacy with all aspects of a brand's products, people, and systems have made him an iconoclast in the retail system (what other CEO asks shoppers to email them personally with complaints?).
Recently, J.Crew has been caught in sluggish retail environment, seeing slow growth and sometimes, staggering net losses. Though recent financial reports show some recovery, the brand seemed to be negotiating drastic changes. "As a team, we are taking important steps to drive improved operational excellence across the company," Drexler said in a March 2017 statement.
It'd be interesting to see whether Brett's expertise in home — one of the fastest growing aspirational categories for millennials — will bring some new energy into a lethargic market. As we're seeing fashion influencers find more financial opportunities in the home and lifestyle spheres, it makes some sense that a fashion brand would turn to interiors for some leadership back into the black.