- After a rollercoaster of a year, J. Crew Group on Monday announced the appointment of Brendon Babenzien as creative director of J. Crew men's, effective immediately, according to a company press release.
- Babenzien is the co-founder of men's apparel company Noah and the former design director at Supreme.
- Babenzien will work alongside J. Crew Group CEO Libby Wadle and will debut his first full collection in the second half of 2022.
J. Crew is ready to shake things up.
The company, which is known for its preppy apparel, is bringing in a designer that helped drive the creative direction and hype around fashion favorite Supreme.
"His unique point of view, willingness to take risks and insider status will be invaluable to J.Crew's commitment to step outside ourselves and disrupt our brand and the industry in a progressive way," Wadle said in a statement regarding the appointment.
Only a year ago the company was in a very different position. In May of 2020 J.Crew Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, one of the first major retailers to do so following the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S. Prior to filing, the company delayed the proposed IPO of its Madewell brand which, in part, would have provided the necessary cash to help pay down the retailer's debt load. The pandemic, however, derailed everything as retailers deemed nonessential were forced to temporarily close their doors to help stem the spread of COVID-19. J. Crew COO at the time called the conditions "unprecedented."
But, conditions changed and the company pushed for a turnaround. By September it had exited bankruptcy and said that it was "well positioned or long-term growth." In November then-CEO of namesake brand J. Crew, Jan Singer, exited the position after only 10 months. Libby Wadle was named CEO of its J. Crew and J. Crew Factory brands in addition to her leadership role at Madewell.
The trajectory of the apparel category also changed dramatically during that time. April 2020 marked a devastating time for the sector, with clothing and accessories sales down by 89% as consumers stopped shopping for discretionary goods. The category is slowly recovering as consumers obtain vaccinations and with the return of events and office life on the horizon. Last month apparel sales rose 666.6% year over year, according to the latest retail sales numbers from the U.S. Commerce Department.
But, what shoppers want to wear is another story. While the casualization of work apparel has been a reality for years, what fashion looks like in an office — if people even go back to a traditional office — remains to be seen. The outdoor fashion trend of gorpcore (named for "gorp," a nickname for trail mix) has been edging into streetwear — a space where Supreme has reigned for years.