“The Merchant Prince” Mickey Drexler Leaves J. Crew as CEO
BY BRENNA O’DONNELL
After 14 years as CEO of J.Crew, Mickey Drexler is stepping down. Drexler is widely known for his lively can-do attitude in the office and is credited with positioning J. Crew as the upscale, sleek, all-American boutique that it is today by moving it away from its former dressed-down roots. Drexler will remain a Chairman of the J. Crew Group as he is the largest individual investor with a 10% stake in the company.
Drexler came to J. Crew in 2003 and has since become recognized as one of the fashion industry’s greatest creative masterminds of merchandise for his re-branding of J. Crew, ushering it out of its catalog days and into a more high-end retail era. Known for riding his bike around the NYC office, timely responses to every last email, and communicating big ideas and congratulatory announcements via live office intercom, Drexler’s changes to J. Crew were apparent on the inside as well as he created a unique and lighthearted work environment for all. During his time at J. Crew, Drexler founded Madewell in 2006, which shares the same preppy look as parent brand J. Crew, but is targeted more towards younger women.
Unfortunately the J. Crew brand has fallen on hard times; same-store sales have been down in the last 11 out of 12 quarters, and this has led to Drexler’s departure as well as long-time Creative Director Jenna Lyons stepping down this past April. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Drexler said that the brand made a mistake when they increased prices even though consumers have become more cost-conscious, and there has been criticism of the brand not acting on the new technology shift in regards to retail.
Before his time at the Manhattan-based clothing giant, Drexler was the CEO of Gap Inc. for 7 years from 1995 – 2002, after acting as the brand’s President for 8 years from 1987 – 1995. During his time at Gap he earned the nickname, “The Merchant Prince” for his ability to skyrocket the company’s private label sales and strategically position them as an MVP in 90’s pop culture as a fun-loving yet classic label. Drexler also founded Old Navy as a subsidiary of Gap Inc. in 1994, and shortly after it became the first retailer to ever exceed $1 billion in their first 4 years of business.
Spanning over his time at both Gap and J. Crew, Drexler also sat on the Board of Directors for Apple Inc. from 1999 until 2015.
Drexler will be succeeded by James Brett, President of West Elm, a furniture subsidiary of Williams Sonoma.