J. Crew taps Chris Benz as womenswear designer

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 Crewc…

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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Jenna Lyons making fashion return with TV series

Jenna Lyons is stepping back into the style spotlight with a new TV show.The former head of J. Crew is not a total stranger to working on the small screen, having previously acted as judge on The Fashion Fund, as well as nabbing an acting role in Lena …

Jenna Lyons is stepping back into the style spotlight with a new TV show.

The former head of J. Crew is not a total stranger to working on the small screen, having previously acted as judge on The Fashion Fund, as well as nabbing an acting role in Lena Dunham’s Girls, but she’ll now be at the helm of a totally new series, after teaming with executives at Turner Entertainment.

The unscripted show will be bringing together fashion, home, and lifestyle, with viewers able to purchase what they see onscreen via an e-commerce site.

“There’s something about this that is connected, real, fun,” Jenna said, according to Vogue. “I am terrified, but that’s a good thing; being in unfamiliar territory feels welcome. One thing that is nice, and I am happy about is that there is no legacy here; we have nothing to live up to other than our own expectations.”

Jenna left her role as creative director and president of U.S. brand J. Crew in 2017, and while she holds a position on the Council of Fashion Designers of America Board of Directors, has kept largely out of fashion over the last 18 months.

Her new Turner series will air in 2019, and Jenna admitted she’s learned a lot during her hiatus.

“In the time I wasn’t working, I was helping my friends who’d perhaps bought a new place and wanted to redo the bathroom, or friends who were getting ready for events or for the prom,” she shared. “Those were things that might have been easy for me, but sometimes people are too embarrassed to ask for help. The point is, everyone can be beautiful; everything can be beautiful. What’s different about this is that I’m not focusing on just one aesthetic – if we redo a room, it could be modern, or preppy, or eclectic, and I can love them all. I’m not selling my idea of what something should be. I’m here to help create.”

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