J.Crew’s famous creative director Jenna Lyons is leaving the company after 26 years. Lyons, who is sometimes referred to as the “Woman Who Dresses America,” will continue working with the company through the end of the year as a “creative advisor.” After years of iconic designs and a charismatic business personality, her departure is a big loss for J.Crew.
As expected, the company is attempting to spin the situation into a positive. J.Crew chief executive Millard “Mickey” Drexler told Business of Fashion that both he and Lyons “agreed it was time for a change.” Drexler also mentions their mutual respect, and remains vague about Lyons’ future plans. In a statement, Lyons called Drexler “one of retail’s most talented visionaries,” and spoke of her lifelong affection for the company. “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,” said Lyons. “Having spent the better part of my life with J.Crew, I feel an immense pride and love for everyone at the company.”
The designer first began working with the brand in 1990 at the age of 21, and by 2003 had worked her way up to President of Women’s Design. By 2010, she was president and creative director. Throughout her time at J.Crew, Lyons became a fashion and business icon, and inspired other designers with her signature looks. Her disregard of gender norms, seamless combinations of traditionally feminine and masculine silhouettes, statement eyewear and fresh take on preppy styles elevated J.Crew to a new level.
Of course, it’s no secret that J.Crew, like many other brick-and-mortar stores, has been having a tough few years. Though their sister label Madewell has boosted sales somewhat, the company still has massive debt. Many of their stores are in noticeable decline, and many customers have recently been complaining about a decrease in quality. Criticism against the brand even took to social media with the hashtag #ReviveJCrew. The loss of Lyons is just another hard blow for the brand.
Lyons’ successor is J.Crew’s current women’s head of design Somsack Sikhounmuong. Sikhounmuong has been with the company since 2001, and previously led the creative team at Madewell. The succession will take place effective immediately, with Sikhounmuong taking over all of Lyons’ duties. There’s no word yet as to Lyons’ next moves, and it’s still difficult to picture her outside of the J.Crew universe. However, with her track record, we can be sure this next stage in her career will be something to watch closely.