Who cares about clothes?

Recently I watched a special on CNBC, called “J.Crew and the Man Who Dressed America.” The special highlights the CEO, Mickey  Drexler, and demonstrates how he transformed the company from a state of free-fall to a booming power-player. In all honesty, fashion doesn’t really catch my eye, but the business of fashion, illustrated through Drexler’s performance, demanded my attention. Drexler took over this company and immediately made quality, supply chain management, and global sourcing critical priorities.

He started diving head first into all of the fine details, even customer complaints, which he sometimes personally takes care of. He takes the mistakes about clothes relayed by the unhappy customers-t-shirts getting holey, sweaters pilling, and actually targets those mistakes and directs his employees to improve upon them. The quality is hand inspected by him, the CEO. He does not just sit in the office somewhere and make decisions about products that he has very little contact with. On the contrary, he is in the store inspecting the product (the merchandise and the store itself) and he knows every single piece of product in each store. He even spends time analyzing with his team on whether to have push or pull doors at the front of the store, before finally settling on the push. Drexler says that 90% of studies show that people prefer a push door to a pull.

Drexler not only works with his suppliers but meets with them in person and inspects their product. He controls the supply chain very tightly and prefers to have the utmost control of both the production and the delivery of the product. J.Crew is a stand alone company that is not sold at department stores, uncommonly at malls and is not conglomerated with other clothes brands, except for its own offshoots. Drexler hand picks the finest fabric from family owned businesses in Italy and then has the fabric shipped to China, where nearly all of the products are assembled before being shipped to the U.S. and Canada. All of the actual design however, is all completely done at J. Crew’s headquarters in Manhattan.

Forever present in all the dimensions of the brand is an attention to detail so strong that it’s difficult not to notice. Not a piece of the company hasn’t been analyzed and rethought and it clearly shows. It’s no surprise that the message that  J. Crew sends does cross industries and it proves that a company must be completely synced with its product, no matter what it is.  As Mickey Drexler says, “Just have huge conviction about what you do…and don’t be afraid.”





15 thoughts on “Who cares about clothes?

  1. This was a very insightful post to read. You never really think about how much goes into running a successful company, let alone a successful large scale company. Drexler’s performance and dedication to J. Crew clearly shows how someone should run a company. It is widely known that no matter what products are being produced, success relies heavily on managing quality. Other CEO’s should focus on how Drexler runs his business, because a lot could be learned.

  2. When it comes to retail fashion, there are many variables that determine whether or not a brand is successful. I think J. Crew does a great job in both quality and customer service. Much of the credit can be given to the CEO because he turned his brand around by taking customer complaints and implementing solutions instead of ignoring them and going off his own judgment. This post gives great insight on how much work is put into operating a clothing business.

  3. The post was very interesting. It really shows how a company can turn the business around with an emphasis on Supply Chain Management. One portion I thought was very interesting and would like to know more about, was how often Drexler uses those “studies” when making business decisions. The market research and in depth hands on approach really highlights Drexler’s hard work.

  4. I find in interesting to see a head of a company that puts some much personal emphasis on the products in the stores. J. Crew is one of my favorite stores because of the quality of there product. I am willing to pay the premium price for the premium. Supply chain management is important to and retail store, and for a CEO to place such a high emphasis on this rather than cutting costs and maximizing profit margins in such a down economy.

  5. It sound nice how they just figured it out that they need high quality cloths. However J-crew is still not on my top list of clothing to buy becuase it is just trying to start out bringing new items. They probably had poor operations becuase they have no real sponsors they promote like other brands who is quality and sponsors some of the most recognize people. Just having quality good doesnt mean growth in sales. I feel that should have been their main goal in the beginign and making it a quality good from the start. It is going to take a while now for them to build that status of a high quality brand. They dont really need to go to italy for their quality material. If they are going to send them to China. China is already known for cheap product and not reliable even with high quality of work you put in. The stigma already has that hold on China product a being cheap and not as reliable.

  6. This article was very interesting, not too many companies out there have a CEO who is involved in all aspects of a company like that. Once again, it just proves how powerful good management skills can be. Every detail counts when trying to improve on the overall performance of a company. I think that the next step for the company should be to expand their product line and their brand by getting it into the big stores such as Nordstrom’s and Macy’s. This way they could introduce their improved products to more people.

  7. I found this article very interesting. As a consumer, it is always nice to hear that the highest levels of management are really getting involved in the operations. As one comment already stated, I, too, am always willing to pay a premium for goods if I feel that the service and quality behind it are at a higher standard. I have shopped at J. Crew in the past, but I was unaware of any operations shortcomings. It is nice to see that they are headed in the right direction.

    One thing that I would be really interested in is how the other levels of management within J. Crew feel about the CEO’s hands-on involvement. I wonder if any of them feel that this new process is overbearing at all. I have worked in positions with very hands-on management and have experienced the negative impacts it can have on employees who feel it is stepping on their toes.

  8. In this article, it truly displayed the importance of having a strong leadership role in a company. CEO, Mickey Drexler of J. Crew clothing demonstrates his strive for the company through quality, supply chain management and global sourcing. He looks to progress the company through every detail from the fabric of each clothing to how each customer prefers opening a door (push vs. pull ). At the end of the day, the customer is what keeps a company going and Mr. Drexler seems to acknowledge that as his first priority.

    This post shows that having a strong management behind you can effect the development of a company in a positive manner. This post has also brought to my attention to how difficult it is to operating a successful clothing department. With great leadership, come dedication, integrity and creativity. Mickey Drexler has performed many of these keys elements in running a successful company the right way.

  9. I currently work for a retail store and it is always refreshing to hear that a CEO of a company takes the time to get involved within the organization and make that he is playing a key role integrating himself. It is funny because even though J Crew might not be as popular or have as many stores compared to other retail place, to me I still find this store to be highly respected by those in the work force trying to find high quality products. It all leads back to the supply chain management and how they determine making higher quality products as opposed to what’s in trend and what sells fast.

  10. This was a very interesting post. I did not know that J Crew was a retail outlet that cared so much about customer opinions, or that the CEO played such a vital part in the organization behind the scenes. Very rarely do we see top level executives roll up their sleeves getting involved with day to day activities in the retail world. In order for retail outlets to be successful we do need to see an overall agreement with the day to day operations that are being conducted in the several retail outlets throughout the country. I also think that since they treat their customers so well they are able to charge a premium price. This shows how people pay for service and quality when they shop, not just focusing on price.

  11. The effort of Mikey Drexler is commendable and more CEO’s should practice what he does. CEO’s should be more familiar with the products of their company and not just the managerial aspect. This type of management is practiced by numerous small business owners, which is why I think some of them are really successful.

  12. I’m actually really impressed with J.Crew and how Drexler handled this company. The way he turned it around and made huge profit margins is amazing. It goes to show that if the CEO is committed to all levels of the company, it the company will do well. It comes down to management style for a successful company.

    And Erin, it all comes down to the culture of the company and the attitude up top. It is ok if management does have a really strong hands on approach as long as the company culture works well within the company, then employees will not feel bothered by it.

  13. As a consumer I don’t ever think about the business aspects of the company when walking into a store. There is so much a company has to put in to run a successful company. I’m very impressed with how J. Crew’s CEO Drexler runs his company. I never thought of J. Crew being this way. They care about their customers opinions and that is very important to running a successful company. I also think Nordstrom is a great example of this. Customer service is key. J. Crew is headed in the right direction and as a customer I’m very pleased with this company.

  14. It really interesting to see how committed and involved Drexler is when making any and all decisions about J Crew. Most people would probably not even think about the opening of a door. Most CEO’s would not spend so much time on the finer things and have employees work on them, but taking into consideration everything is what makes a good manager, which is proven by the results and success of J Crew

  15. I found this post to be very insightful. I too am not very interested in fashion, but can certainly appreciate the scale of the industry. I wonder just how many other CEO’s, of companies the size of J Crew, put the same level of attention to the small details as Drexler? This looks like a good blueprint for others to follow.

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