CNBC ORIGINAL DOCUMENTARY REPORTED BY DAVID FABER
ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J., May 9, 2012—With more than 300 stores, nearly two billion dollars in sales, and even the First Lady as a fan, J. Crew -- once a flailing, lackluster brand -- has become a fashion force. In the CNBC Original “J. Crew and the Man Who Dressed America” premiering on Thursday, May 24th at 10PM ET/PT, CNBC’s David Faber tells the story of this growing retailer and explains what’s made the stylish, contemporary brand a success.
CNBC profiles J. Crew CEO Millard “Mickey” Drexler, dubbed “The King of Retail” for his intuitive sense of what the public craves and for his ability to turn around troubled companies. At 67, Drexler is known for his obsessive focus on detail, unflinching candor and for trusting his instincts over market research. Since taking over J. Crew in 2003, Drexler has successfully introduced designer-quality clothing for the masses, driving the company’s revenues up 170% to nearly $1.9 billion in 2011.
Drexler discusses his long career in retail, including the corporate turnaround for which he is best known, at Gap Inc. When Drexler arrived in 1983, the Gap was known primarily for selling discount jeans. He transformed the company’s image, overhauled stores, expanded the customer base, and launched a “khaki revolution,” making the retail giant the number one apparel company in the world. It was at this time that Steve Jobs named Drexler to Apple’s Board of Directors, where the two men forged a unique and lasting partnership. Jobs even sought his advice when he launched the Apple store. Faber asks Drexler what his single biggest takeaway has been from his years working with Jobs and serving on the Apple board. Drexler replies, “The takeaway is, just have a huge conviction about what you do and don't be afraid … don't be afraid.”
By 2002, a stalled economy and changing fashion tastes drove Gap’s sales into free fall. Drexler was blamed and was fired from the company he had led for nineteen years. Despite this setback, Drexler had become extraordinarily wealthy, a far cry from his modest upbringing in the Bronx. Faber accompanies Drexler to his old neighborhood, where they meet up for lunch with some of Drexler’s childhood friends, whom he calls the “Borough Boys.” He also joins him at his waterfront property in the Hamptons, one of several properties Drexler owns around the country.
What is it that makes J. Crew’s clothing and merchandise unique? From New York to Italy, CNBC goes inside the months-long process of conceiving, creating, and marketing a new line of clothing. President and Executive Creative Director Jenna Lyons tells Faber that Drexler has brought a new focus and energy to the company. CNBC follows Lyons and J. Crew designers as they refine the Fall 2012 line, and Faber accompanies Drexler to Milan as he selects fabrics at a century-old clothing mill for the company’s high-end shirt collection.
CNBC cameras also go behind the scenes of the making of one of the most popular fashion publications in America—the J. Crew catalog. With more than 40 million copies printed annually, it’s still a key tool for driving sales. Faber explains the time and detail that go into creating the catalog, from a big-budget photo shoot in Palm Springs, California, all the way through the process of choosing the cover.
For more information including slideshows and web extras, log onto: insidejcrew.cnbc.com.
Mitch Weitzner is the Senior Executive Producer. Charles Schaeffer is Executive Producer. Ruth Chenetz and Kevin Kane are Producers. Ray Borelli is the Senior Vice President of Strategic Research, Scheduling and Long Form Programming.
CNBC’s “J. Crew and the Man Who Dressed America” will re-air on Sunday, May 27th at 10PM ET.
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