Meet The Guy Who Saved Ann Taylor, Made Gap Cool And Put J. Crew In The White House

mickey drexler

Mickey Drexler is credited with wardrobing America. First through Ann Taylor, then Gap, and now J. Crew. He also turned these companies into major money-makers (though now Gap is hurting), and iconic brands in the world of retail.

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He landed his first CEO gig at 36. Since then, he increased Ann Taylor’s revenues exponentially, took Gap from $480 million in sales to $13.6 billion within two decades; and brought J. Crew up from $700 million to $1.7 billion in revenue within a decade.

After his turn at Ann Taylor, he chose Gap and J.Crew for similar reasons: both companies needed a turnaround. Though he was fired from the Gap in 2002 when its stock took a major plunge, he redeemed himself at J. Crew, and is considered a “Merchant Prince.”

“Ann Taylor—great name, great real estate, shitty business,” he told New York Magazine after he was hired. “Gap—great name, great real estate, declining business. J.Crew—Hellooo?—great name, better fashion image than the Gap.”

His success can be attributed to many things. But at the core, Drexler is severely passionate about fashion, fanatical about details, and a relentless manager. He even uses an intercom system at J. Crew’s NYC headquarters.

Drexler turned down his first job when he learned a colleague was offered more money than him

One of his first tasks at Gap was firing people who didn't make the cut

Drexler got rid of Levis and everything but the house brand

Drexler knows that in retail, you have a split-second to draw a customer in

Drexler's ultimate downfall at Gap was his overly-ambitious plan for growth

He makes announcements at the J. Crew HQ over an intercom system

Employees say Drexler is the toughest person to work for

Drexler applied the same formula from Gap to J. Crew -- creating more upmarket clothes

According to the Journal, 'Drexler's vision for the company was simple and not unlike his original vision for Gap: quality basics, the perfect T, the perfect pair of khakis, the perfect sweater--but he took it further by increasing the quality to create more upmarket pieces.'

He listens to consumers intently. They've pointed him to new niche markets - like J. Crew's bridal line

He knows the market inside out -- and offers a higher-quality product

He also imitates the luxury market

'I look at companies as price-players or quality-players,

When it hit Drexler that half of America makes less than $45,000, he created Old Navy

Drexler is involved in every detail -- vetting employees, choosing models, and editing press releases

J.Crew fared better during the recession than its competitors

Though net income dropped 44 per cent and stock fell 76 per cent during the Great Recession, J. Crew outperformed competitors Jones Apparel Group, Liz Claiborne, and his former employer, Ann Taylor. During this time, Drexler cut prices and inventory, according to the WSJ.

Drexler was criticised for the way he handled J. Crew's private equity buyout

Earlier this year, J. Crew accepted a buyout by private equity firm TPG. Drexler was criticised for getting too close to private equity firms during talks. But ultimately shareholders were unconcerned, and Drexler remains CEO and a shareholder of the company.

Gap, on the other hand, is still struggling

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