Jenna Lyons Exits J.Crew

Jenna Lyons exits J.Crew after 26 years as the all-American retailer’s creative director, as it was reported to the Business of Fashion yesterday evening by J.Crew’s headquarters.

Jenna Lyons Exits J.Crew

Jenna Lyons’ departure, who is one of America’s most acclaimed designers, could be regarded as an emotional one, as seen in almost any social media account related to the fashion industry (The Man Repeller appears to be the one who is suffering most, describing Jenna Lyons as the woman who “made J.Crew cool”).

Gesina Gudehus-Wittern, engagement manager at strategic consulting firm Vivaldi, for example, perfectly explained to WWD Lyons’ impact upon J.Crew and the fashion industry, giving us a better glimpse of the possible consequences J.Crew is about to face. “Lyons has been to J. Crew what Karl Lagerfeld is to Chanel — not the brand’s founder, but the personification of everything the brand stands for in the mind of its loyal customers. It’s hard for a loyal J. Crew customer to imagine the brand without her — and dangerously, for those loyal to the brand, that loyalty is closely tied to Lyons.”

Touching messages aside, in fact, this is an extremely interesting and worrisome turn for the brand at the same time, mainly for two different reasons. First and foremost, Lyons’ legacy is part of J.Crew’s very own style and signature aesthetics, as throughout her 26 years at the label Lyon truly managed to leave an imposing footprint her successors will have a hard time to even match. Secondly, J.Crew’s decreasing sales are, at this point, no secret, and her departure could mean even more plummeting sales for the label.

According to the press note released by J.Crew, however, Lyons will keep on working with the label until the end of her contract, i.e. up until December 2017. She then will have to be subject to a year-long non-compete agreement, which means that she still has a few months to focus her creative input on something that could help J.Crew rise like a phoenix again.

While Jenna Lyons will remain J.Crew’s creative advisor for less than a year now, J.Crew’s reign will be held by J.Crew’s former head of women’s design Somsack Sikhounmuong, who just got promoted to chief design officer. “I put more pressure on me than anyone else can put pressure on me, that’s the nature of the job I have and the nature of who I am,” J.Crew’s Drexler chief executive officer Millard “Mickey” Drexler told WWD regarding Lyons’ departure, Sikhounmuong’s appointment and J.Crew’s future.

“Retail is changing at the speed of light right now and we’re excited to move forward and meet the challenges we’re faced with. The company will continue to evolve. This is a mutual decision; she had a really good run and we had a great partnership,” he added. “This is a major blow to the J. Crew brand, as it has been linked to Jenna Lyons and her personal style — not just internally, but to consumers — ever since she took the creative helm in 2008.”

With circa $1.5 billion debt coming due in 2018 and one of the most acclaimed designers stepping down from her position, J.Crew really needs to figure out how to get back its shoppers’ trusts, now!

Photo courtesy of J.Crew

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