Fashion

The Streetwear Effect Comes for J.Crew: Supreme Alum Brendon Babenzien Joins the Preppy Retailer

Here’s what Babenzien’s appointment as creative director means for the classic American brand.

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J.Crew, bastion of preppy style, has hired streetwear heavyweight Brendon Babenzien as its new creative director of menswear. Babenzien, who founded cult streetwear brand Noah in 2015 and served as design director at Supreme for 14 years, will bring a fresh perspective to J.Crew, whose business has floundered during the pandemic.

“J.Crew has always been a part of my life — quietly, subtly in the background, slowly becoming the platform from which to build my personal style,” Babenzien said in an official statement. “Brendon is a singular talent in the fashion world. He’s a true storyteller, and it’s that depth of vision and creativity that have led to his proven ability to build beloved brands that customers obsess over,” added Libby Wadle, J.Crew’s chief executive. “His unique point of view, willingness to take risks and insider status will be invaluable to J.Crew’s commitment to step outside ourselves and disrupt our brand and the industry in a progressive way.”

Back in May 2020, J.Crew filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to financial troubles worsened by the pandemic. Four months later, the company emerged from bankruptcy with a new majority owner, private equity firm Anchorage Capital Group LLC. It seems the American retailer is taking its fall from grace as a chance for reinvention — Babenzien said he will apply his knowhow for buzzy collaborations, a sphere full of potential, to his new role. “I think you can expect to see music, film, and even literary collaborations,” he told WWD.

Babenzien’s appointment could see a renaissance for J.Crew’s menswear division, which has struggled to keep up with hype-driven consumers and trends. Babenzien now has the opportunity to re-establish J.Crew as a classic yet eclectic retailer, a dichotomy that former Executive Creative Director Jenna Lyons tread beautifully. Lyons transformed the American mainstay into an arbiter of taste, so skillfully that the brand’s appeal began to wane after her exit in 2017. As major mall brands including Gap and Levi’s cash in on streetwear’s reign, taking on collaborations with the likes of YEEZY and Awake NY, it’s reasonable to assume that Babenzien will push J.Crew in a similar direction.

Babenzien’s first full collection for J.Crew will debut during the second half of 2022.

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