J.Crew has hired Chris Benz as the new head of women’s design.
The American designer leaves his post as the creative director at Bill Blass for his new role at the struggling label.
As well as heading up womenswear, Benz will also be in charge of Crewcuts, J.Crew’s children’s brand.
Benz has history with the brand, and began his career under former creative director Jenna Lyons in 2005 when he was fresh out of Parsons School of Design.
“J.Crew is where I started my career and I have always loved the inspired mix of things – colour and pattern, texture and quality – that defines it,” he gushed in a statement to Business of Fashion. “I look forward to innovating on the brand’s essential classics to create an eclectic American style that is both polished and unique, and revives J.Crew as a destination where everyone can find something special.”
Since Lyons’ departure in 2017, after 26 years at the brand, J. Crew has struggled to find a steady replacement. Long-term employee Somsack Sikhounmuong, who was initially drafted in, left after five months in the role, with the most recent chief design officer, Johanna Uurasjarvi, calling it quits after an eight-month sting that began in June (18).
They are also still without a CEO, after Jim Brett left the company last fall.
In an official statement, label bosses said: “The company recognised the need for a fresh perspective from someone who understood the importance of the brand’s heritage and style to give consumers the designs they have come to expect from the iconic company. Chris Benz’s colourful, distinct aesthetic complements J. Crew’s own.
“These necessary and significant changes are part of the company’s efforts to revitalize the J. Crew brand among consumers, while also becoming more productive and more profitable in the process.”
Chief administrative officer Lynda Markoe added to BoF that she is “thrilled” to welcome Benz back.
“His creative aesthetic and refined perspective on the brand is the perfect complement to the heritage of J.Crew and will allow him to evolve our women’s collection in a way that is authentic and relevant,” she added.
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