J.Crew Grads Strike Out on Their Own

The purveyor of preppy chic has become a fashion incubator
Photo illustration by Alis Atwell; Source: Alamy(2), J.Crew(2)

It wasn’t until Emily Sugihara quit her job as an assistant designer at J.Crew that she started winning accolades from Mickey Drexler, the company’s chief executive officer. After she left the rebounding American retailer in 2006, Sugihara and her mother parlayed a sewing hobby into a business selling affordable nylon and canvas bags. She mailed some free samples to former colleagues; eventually, the clothier decided to stock Baggu’s $9 shoppers in a rainbow of colors as part of its In Good Company program, which is devoted to third-party collaborations. When at one sales meeting Drexler heard the bags were doing well at J.Crew stores and online, he called Sugihara to congratulate her. “I got this one very crazy voice mail that I saved for a few years,” she recalls. “And we’ve connected on the phone since then.”

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