One of the fashion industry’s biggest retailers is shaking things up.
On Monday, J.Crew announced that it had named Brendon Babenzien its men’s creative director; the first clothes made under his direction will reach its stores in the second half of 2022. Babenzien, who co-owns the buzzy New York menswear brand Noah and was previously the design director at the hyper-collectible skate brand Supreme, represents a distinct departure for the brand, which has struggled during streetwear’s rise to dominance.
“We need to disrupt the business,” said J.Crew CEO Libby Wadle in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, which broke the news.
That doesn’t mean Babenzien is starting from scratch. His vision for the brand’s men’s clothing re-centers J.Crew’s classic and essential items from the ’80s and ’90s, while also keeping newer bestsellers, such as the slim-fitting Ludlow suit, in the mix. But he’s also looking into ways to accommodate customers who prefer looser fits and more relaxed everyday wear.
“J.Crew has always been a part of my life—quietly, subtly in the background, slowly becoming the platform from which to build my personal style,” he said in a statement. “I’m excited to join the team and build a positive future that meets the interests of the thoughtful consumers that exist today, satisfying not just their sophisticated taste level but their demands for responsible business practices.”
Like a long list of other retailers, J.Crew entered bankruptcy protection during the pandemic, but emerged in September under new ownership. Wadle, who’d previously led J.Crew’s successful sister brand Madewell, took the reins in November. She and Babenzien have said they’re more focused on raising the quality of J.Crew’s menswear than its prices. (Noah, which Babenzien will continue to run with his co-owner and wife, Estelle Bailey-Babenzien, is known for turning out $1,096 suits and $1,498 outerwear that can feel princely by comparison to J.Crew’s current offering.)
Ultimately, Babenzien seems focused on serving J.Crew’s core customers, and perhaps new ones, navigate menswear’s somewhat confusing current climate.
“J.Crew is in the unique position to help men achieve the confidence we all seek both stylistically and as consumers,” his statement continued. “I look forward to working with Libby and the rest of the J.Crew family to achieve these goals.”