Since 1990, Jenna Lyons has been a member of the J.Crew team, and she is largely credited with the company’s ascension into fame. Her chemistry with chief executive officer Millard “Mickey” Drexler, who joined in 2003, was exactly what the brand needed to become a fashion phenomenon. However, after 26 years, the two have amicably parted ways and decided that it was “time for a change.”
Lyons, who was originally just creative director, rose to the rank of president of the company in 2010 and then continued to hold both positions. During her time at the company, she transformed what it meant to be preppy. Her contributions to the fashion world include everything from turning sequins into a work-appropriate look, to convincing women that blazers could be feminine (and that being feminine wasn’t the end-all, be-all task of a working women, in general,) to creating accessories out of bulky eyeglasses. In her nearly-three decades in the fashion world, Lyons became an icon that ultimately changed what it meant to be a modern woman in America. Unfortunately, it seems that her reign as queen of oversized jewelry, pencil skirts, and button downs has ended as J.Crew’s sales have plummeted in the past two years – a statistic that a company with a $1.5 million debt simply cannot afford.
In a statement given to Business of Fashion – who broke the news – Drexler expressed that the decision was a mutual agreement between the two. He said:
Jenna and I got together and we both agreed it was time for a change. That being said, she’s got plans to do other things. It’s been a great run. There’s a lot of mutual respect between Jenna and me.
Lyons echoed this statement, making sure to mention how positive her experience at J.Crew was:
It has been beyond my wildest dreams to work with such an amazing team of people at such an incredible brand and alongside Mickey — one of retail’s most talented visionaries. I am excited about the next chapter for J.Crew as well as the opportunity for other creative leaders within the organisation to step up and take on new responsibilities. Having spent the better part of my life with J.Crew, I feel an immense pride and love for everyone at the company.
Current women’s head of design Somsack Sikhounmuong will be taking over for Lyons as chief design officer. However, Sikhounmuong will not be taking over her presidential duties – instead, everything outside of the men’s, women’s, and children’s design teams will be delegated to Drexler, effective immediately. Having led design at Madewell, J.Crew’s sister label, Sikhounmuong is well-experienced and prepared to handle the task of creating a new aesthetic. Regardless, it is undeniable that he has some big eyeglasses to fill. Lyons will remain on the team as a creative advisor until December of 2017, when she will be leaving indefinitely.
Her plans for the future are unclear as of now, but her position as an American fashion icon is solidified forever. Every time a women wears a bubble necklace, a no.2 pencil skirt, or a neon tweed blazer, they’ll have her to thank.