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Joe Nocera

J. Crew's Biggest Problem Isn't Clothing. It's Greed.

Private equity owners took their cut. Now there's a debt squeeze and the legendary CEO, Mickey Drexler, is out.
High fashion, high finance.

High fashion, high finance.

Photographer: Noam Galai/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week

If there’s fashion equivalent to tone deafness, that describes me. So I’m not going to claim that I have deep insight into why J. Crew, the fashion darling for most of Mickey Drexler’s storied tenure as chief executive, lost its magic touch.

Maybe it was because its women’s clothing became "curiously blank and directionless, neither sophisticated nor appealingly accessible," as Jon Caramanica wrote in the New York Times a few weeks ago. Or maybe it was that J. Crew failed "to anticipate or define recent sales trends for athleisure or minimalism." (Lisa Schmeiser, the Observer.) Or that its clothes got too expensive for the young urban women who were its core customers, something Drexler himself acknowledged recently to the Wall Street Journal.