J.Crew Hires Former Supreme Designer to Head Mens Design

Discussion in 'Designers and Collections' started by lucy92, May 17, 2021.

  1. lucy92

    lucy92 Mod Squad Team Leader

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    J.Crew Group Inc., the retailer known for its preppy styles, is turning to an occasional-Mohawk-sporting designer with a skateboarding pedigree to revive the struggling brand.

    The company on Monday is naming Brendon Babenzien, co-owner of culty New York menswear label Noah and former longtime design director at pioneering streetwear brand Supreme, to the role of J.Crew’s men’s creative director. His first designs will hit stores in the second half of 2022.

    Mr. Babenzien’s hire is a sharp turn for J.Crew, which emerged as a retail force in the ’90s for defining the preppy dress code of upper-middle-class Americans. The 49-year-old native of Long Island made his name in fashion during 14 years at Supreme, whose T-shirts and hoodies bearing the company’s bright red-and-white logo have a cultlike following among young adults.

    “We need to disrupt the business,” said J.Crew Chief Executive Libby Wadle, who took over the retailer in November after it emerged from bankruptcy.

    J.Crew filed for bankruptcy protection last year after a long period of declining sales and management turnover. The company was late to adapt as more shoppers shifted to fast-fashion chains and online shopping. It also has been criticized for being out of step with consumer trends. Starting in 2008, under the guidance of men’s designer Frank Muytjens, J.Crew steered its clothing toward Italian-fabric dress shirts, leather dress shoes and slender suits. But around the mid-2010s, men’s fashion shifted toward streetwear and sneakers and J.Crew was slow to keep up.

    The pandemic accelerated the retailer’s decline by forcing the temporary closure of stores. The company emerged from bankruptcy in September under new owners led by hedge fund Anchorage Capital Group LLC.

    Ms. Wadle, who previously headed Madewell, J.Crew’s denim-focused sublabel, said classic styles will continue to be important to J.Crew’s men’s business. At the same time, she is looking to Mr. Babenzien to push the limits in his designs.

    Mr. Babenzien said he would try to strike a balance between his eccentricities and the broad tastes of shoppers who visit the chain’s 151 stores often in search of button-down shirts for the office. He said his vision for J.Crew will focus on fundamental pieces echoing the clean-cut American look that the brand pushed throughout the ’80s and ’90s. Mr. Babenzien said J.Crew’s catalogs, which he first discovered at a friend’s house in the mid-1980s, were “really aspirational” to him as a teenager. Mr. Babenzien intends to place the brand’s no-fuss basics front and center again.

    “Can someone walk in [to a store] and take something as simple as chinos and a T-shirt and make it look good?” he said. “It’ll be my job to show people how to do that.”

    He plans to keep the brand’s popular slim-fitting Ludlow suit, though he said he would look into adding new fits and even pleated pants for consumers who prefer looser fits. Ms. Wadle said that coming off the pandemic, shoppers are looking for more relaxed silhouettes.

    Mr. Babenzien will continue to operate Noah alongside his wife, Estelle Bailey-Babenzien. Noah is a more grown-up label than Supreme, offering striped dress shirts, cashmere suits and beachy striped tees. Noah’s $52 pocket tees and $128 striped button-ups are nearly double the price of similar styles at J.Crew.

    Mr. Babenzien said he doesn’t intend to take J.Crew into Noah’s pricing tier, but that pricing was a continuing discussion. He and Ms. Wadle said they were both focused first on raising the quality of J.Crew’s styles.

    Noah is also known for more outré designs like a $1,498 cheetah-printed overcoat and punkish $88 pink-and-black sneakers made in collaboration with Vans. Mr. Babenzien said he is eager to sprinkle some of his unexpected elements into J.Crew’s collections.

    “I’m still me. My design sensibility isn’t going to change,” said Mr. Babenzien, who during an interview wore a 1980s-era logoed jacket made by the skateboard company Powell Peralta.

    “He’s got a lot of rope and room to push,” Ms. Wadle said.
    story by jacob gallagher/wsj.com
     
  2. Phuel

    Phuel Well-Known Member

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    So basically an even more watered down version of his already generic watered down hipsterwear Noah brand LOL Hope this works out for them. Frankly, no designer, no brand can make “someone walk in and take something as simple as chinos and a T-shirt make it look good” but the person wearing it: Confidence and style can’t be bought. And his Noah line already lacks both.

    (This rebranding is already giving me 54yo-dad-with-soulpatch-and-wears-Vans-who-think-he’s-down-with-the-kidz kind of vibe…)
     
  3. jeanclaude

    jeanclaude Well-Known Member

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  4. YohjiAddict

    YohjiAddict Well-Known Member

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    He's so boring, brands like his make me abhor white, khaki and navy to the extent I never want to wear anything that is not black ever again.
     
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  5. lucy92

    lucy92 Mod Squad Team Leader

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    He wants to bring back pleated pants for men. How revolutionary.
     
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  6. vetemente

    vetemente Member

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    I actually dont think it is a bad idea, jcrew has gone from collegiate staples to young yuppie fresh out of college types to an uglier version of brooks brothers in the last ten years or so.

    Injecting some new silhouettes and color-combinations, a little more funky here and there, slightly more variety of mildly louder prints should do the work, maybe something like The Editor or Eleventy from Italy...But please dont go down the route of the GAP with roomy slacks, that would be disastrous.

    Just dont be too ambitious and want to sell to the whole of America, recognise the target market and do well there and they will be fine. From how I see it, there is a market there that no one is taking right now.
     

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