There was once a time when J.Crew was the premier clothing company for young adults. And the success of this company was largely a result of the diligence of president and creative director Jenna Lyons. Now, after 26 years, though, Lyons has announced she is leaving the brand. When her current contract expires, in December of this year, she will not renew it.
At that time, though, J.Crew has no plans to replace her. Instead, her responsibilities—produce design, visual presentation, brand presentation—will be absorbed by other executive team members. Somsack Sikhounmuong, for example, is the current Head of Women’s Design, but will be promoted to Chief Design Officer. This position will include new oversight of the women’s, men’s and crewcuts design teams.
Mr. Sikhounmuong has been part of the J.Crew family since 2001, where he filled senior design roles and then sat as Head of Design for Madewell from 2013-2015. He will now report directly to J.Crew chairman and CEO, Millard Drexler.
Drexler honors Lyon’s departure, saying, “It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Jenna as my trusted partner for the past 14 years. She has made many significant contributions to J.Crew and has built an incredibly talented team. J.Crew is focused on continuing the progress underway as we execute on our strategic initiatives and position the Company for the long term. We have taken important steps to improve our performance and are confident that the team in place will continue these efforts.”
Drexler also goes on to commend Somsack, noting that he has a “deep understanding of the aesthetic and style our customers rely on J.Crew to deliver,” and assures Somsack has a “proven track record of driving creative vision in-line with our brand DNA.”
As you might suspect, the departure of Lyons marks the end of a creative era for the company, who has been making meaningful and significant strategic changes throughout the organization for many years as a means to ensure continued growth in the future. Most notably, the company has been strengthening its operations in an attempt to more efficiently move towards addressing today’s quickly changing world and focus on productivity by developing new merchandising and marketing.
While the company has been holding strong to move forward, many loyal J.Crew fans have left the brand, arguing that it has become to “fashion-centric.” But many of those who have left may change their mind and return, as they blamed Lyons for the shifts in the company that they did not like.