the man who dressed america

I finally got around to watching the CNBC special that the Hubs DVR'ed for me: J. Crew & The Man Who Dressed America. It focuses on J. Crew's CEO, Millard "Mickey" Drexler, who started at the company in 2003 when it was floundering. His previous ventures included working at Ann Taylor (where he constantly asked himself, "would Jackie wear this?"), making the Gap hip, moving Banana Republic from safari to upscale, and starting Old Navy. He is even on the board of Apple and helped to get their first retail store off the ground.

Drexler is often called the "King of Retail" because of his attention to detail and visceral "go with your gut" feelings on what the customer wants. He is a self-proclaimed micromanager but that has clearly paid off. Jenna Lyon, who was the only employee to survive Drexler's house cleaning when he first started, describes pre-Drexler J. Crew as "vanilla" and current J. Crew as "a triple decker sundae." 

He responds personally to customer complaints. And he holds company "town hall" type meetings with his employees. And he asks questions like, "is it easy for a woman to wear?" (But he admits he has made mistakes as well and, funny enough, I am pretty sure the mistake he references in the special is this one.)

If you get a chance and can find it playing (or can record it), I highly recommend it. And it is only and hour long. Even if you aren't exactly interested in Drexel's story but love J. Crew, the special follows him to Italy where he sources fabric from a century old mill, the making of a catalogue, and the J. Crew team as they create the Fall 2012 line.

I will leave you with a quote from him that is pretty telling: "I got, uh, shpilkes. You know the Yiddish term shpilkes. I can't stop moving."

{image via here}


  1. It sounds really interestig and something I'd love to watch. Off to check it out. Thanks, darling. Have a great day.

  2. Man, I'm sad to have missed it! It looks like it re-aired on Tuesday night. I'm going to try and find it as it would be right up my alley. Thanks for sharing!

  3. he is definitely a corporate branding mastermind, BUT, after having learned about banana republic's original mission and clothing, which was just super bad ass and not about professional casual at all, but about exotic exploration, i am sort of pissed he but into the brand image. that being said, the businesswoman in me knows that banana was floundering and needed an overhaul. still. a bit amiss that the original founders' vision was sort of stomped on.

    definitely want to see this!


  4. I caught this a few weeks ago and loved it! He cracked me up with his very forthright nature. I can't stand a micromanager, but he's apparently made it work to his advantage. :)


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