Not since Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive at Apple has a creative pairing been as intriguing and fruitful as that of Drexler and Lyons. Drexler became chairman and CEO at J.Crew in 2003, four months after Gap fired him following a plunge in the company’s stock. His fall was both humiliating and motivational. Todd Snyder, Drexler’s former head of men’s wear at Gap, advised him to seek out Lyons, at the time J.Crew’s vice president of women’s design, likening her to Calvin Klein in the early days.
While the comparison isn’t perfect, it is interesting the Mickey Drexler found Lyons within J. Crew when he took over just like Jobs found Ive within Apple after he returned. Also worth noting: Drexler is a long-serving member of Apple’s board of directors.
Another great anecdote about Drexler:
After the brothers explained their concerns, Drexler told them that J.Crew was trying its best to behave like a tiny company. And he immediately proved his point. During the meeting, as he paged through a J.Crew catalog, he came across a sneaker from Tretorn. When Emil mentioned that he was a freelance art director for Tretorn advertising, Drexler asked if he thought J.Crew was selling the best model of the shoe. Emil said he preferred another, the men’s classic. “Mickey got on the officewide intercom,” recalls Emil, referring to Drexler’s most melodramatic prop, a loudspeaker system that booms through the hallways at J.Crew headquarters, “and said, ‘Who’s in charge of Tretorn? Come to my office!’” The person in charge of Tretorn was asked, ‘Are we getting these?’ Twenty minutes after leaving the J.Crew office, Emil got a call from his boss at Tretorn asking if he had just been in a meeting with Mickey Drexler. Eventually the company ended up carrying that Tretorn shoe—and the Hill-side, too, which is now on its 15th J.Crew collection.
The officewide intercom is brilliant.
I already liked J.Crew as a brand before reading this article, but I wasn’t entirely sure why. Now it’s much more clear. It’s no accident.