After a 26-year tenure at J. Crew, Inc. — including the prestigious role as president and creative director since 2012 — Jenna Lyons is leaving the company, according to a company statement released on Monday.
"She has made many significant contributions to J.Crew and has built an incredibly talented team," said CEO Mickey Drexler said in a statement released Monday following news reports of Lyon's departure. "J.Crew is focused on continuing the progress underway as we execute on our strategic initiatives and position the Company for the long term."
Lyons' position will not be filled but her design responsibilities will be transferred to Somsack Sikhounmuong, who has been named chief design officer. Sikhounmuong, has been with the company since 2001, including as head of design for the brand's lower price point, highly successful Madewell brand. The company statement also indicated that Lyons would remain with J.Crew as a creative advisor until the end of her current contract, which expires in December 2017.
The quirky (and notoriously self-promoting) fashion icon Lyons was known for the creative twist she put on J. Crew’s classic prep-wear. The style maven was adored by celebrities and during her tenure, attracted the likes of Michelle Obama and the Duchess of Cambridge to the J. Crew fold.
Lyons was the instigator of trends like the now-classic bubble necklace and the reinvented pencil skirt, and also known for her own distinct personal style and trendsetting ensembles such as the ballgown skirt and sweater combination she seamlessly pulled off at the Met Ball back in 2011.
But even though Lyon’s risk-taking outlook on fashion inspired industry professionals, celebrities and consumers alike, she was also castigated for attracting too much attention and publicity in the midst of a low point for the retail industry and J. Crew itself. Dependent on dwindling mall traffic, the retailer's woes have steadily worsened in recent years, with comparable sales at J.Crew falling 6.7% this past fiscal year, proceeded by an 8.2% drop the year prior. Meanwhile, the retailer is also struggling under a $2 billion debt load. Its private equity owners, TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Partners, suffered a $1 billion write-down in 2015 because of the brand's deteriorating popularity, combined with having overpaid for the retailer in 2011.
While there’s no word what Lyons will be doing next, it is thought that her departure is the first of several necessary changes for J. Crew, Inc. if the company now wants to get its head above water again.
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