Why J.Crew Stole Madewell’s Head Designer

June 12, 2015 - fall Denim

J.Crew announced a vital shakeup of a pattern group yesterday. As partial of a 175-job layoff, a vast tradesman pronounced goodbye to conduct women’s engineer Tom Mora, replacing him with Somsack Sikhounmuong, who comes internally from a lead pattern purpose during sister code Madewell.

This is something of a entrance home for Sikhounmuong, who designed accessories and afterwards attire for 12 years during J.Crew before being shifted to conduct pattern for Madewell. His first collection for a significantly smaller, millennial-focused code strike stores open 2014. In that mercantile year, Madewell posted a 35% sales increase, while J.Crew grew only 4%.

During his time with a brand, Sikhounmuong fine-tuned what Madewell looked like in propinquity to J.Crew. Before he came on board, a code resembled a freshman-year chronicle of J.Crew; with skater skirts subbed for midi styles and shrunken margin jackets for jean jackets, though a formulaic stripe/polka dot/floral imitation mixes kept intact.


Madewell open 2013 and tumble 2013, before Sikhoumong. Photos: Madewell

Sikhoumuong gave a Madewell lady edge, display her slouchier jeans, boxier coats, and some-more than one approach to wear a jumpsuit. The worldly demeanour was easy to code in campaigns, too: fall 2014 was shot on 38-year-old indication Malgosia Bela, photographed in Paris. Silhouettes juxtaposed oversize tops with spare bottoms, infrequently with heels and infrequently with sneakers. The engineer explained a brand’s expansion during a walkthrough of a open 2015 collection, saying, “We had a constant fanbase, and it’s about progressing that, not carrying them outgrow us. We’re creation things reduction trendy, some-more classics-based. The kinds of things you’d save and wear as we got older—less fussy.”

Madewell tumble 2014, underneath Sikhoumong’s direction. Photo: Driely S. for Racked

Denim has been a outrageous concentration for both Madewell and J.Crew in new years, with a after rising a possess premium, made-in-America jeans label, Point Sur. Pieces from that offshoot, that sell for scarcely double what J.Crew Denim asks, have worked their approach into a brand’s well-covered New York Fashion Week presentations.

Meanwhile, Madewell relocated a denim designers to LA (“the universe collateral for jeans,” J.Crew Group CEO Mickey Drexler declared) in mid-2013, adding 47 styles to a line a year later. Earlier this year, Sikhoumoung told us that flares were leading sales expectations, generally in light washes, as were overalls (so, naturally, he married a dual into a span of flared overalls for tumble 2015). Drexler says he wants Madewell to be “the Levi’s of a generation.”

The success in a essential universe of denim, and a altogether expansion of a association during large, couldn’t have been missed by Drexler, who has a soothing mark for Madewell (he famously purchased a 1937-founded code himself, leasing it to J.Crew Group for $1 per year before it was engrossed into a company). In a new New York Times feature, it was revealed that as shortly as J.Crew’s sales are behind up, Drexler will be authorised to file in on Madewell. He clearly sees what Sikhoumoung’s savvy has finished for Madewell and entrusts him to do a same for J.Crew.

At Madewell, Sikhoumoung brought boyish-cool to a before twee brand, and it worked. J.Crew’s assembly is a lot broader, in all terms: age, geography, and perfect numbers (J.Crew still raked in $2 billion final year, while Madewell finished during $245 million). We don’t design a duplication of his Madewell cultured during J.Crew, though wouldn’t be astounded if some of a feathers, sequins, and super-saturated colors waste in preference of menswear fabrics, pithy knits, and, of course, good jeans.

A demeanour during Madewell’s expansion underneath Somsack:

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