J.Crew’s Mickey Drexler on Secrets to His Success
by Lauren Sherman
January 7, 2013
J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler started his career as a Bloomingdale’s buyer some 40 years ago. Today at WWD‘s CEO Summit, the “man who dressed America” shared some pretty valuable life lessons. His caveat? “Most of what I say relates to the fashion retail business, most of what I say does not pertain to startup business.”
Still, we say you’ll get something out of his talk, no matter what you’re currently working on.
It is always fun to listen to what Mickey has to say. He is clearly doing something right at J.Crew, since J.Crew continuously outperforms (& outshines) their competitors.
- “Most people underestimate the importance of creativity. Too many people overlook the importance of a beautiful product. Creativity drives growth in any business.”
- “The person is a resume, not what’s on a piece of paper. Whoever gives advice about resumes in college should be dismissed. Titles don’t matter. GPAs don’t matter, nor does what school you go to. What matters is hard work, and emotional intelligence. People put ‘study abroad’ on their resume. I actually like when they don’t study abroad because that means they aren’t entitled. What about study abroad will make you a better J.Crew associate? I hire a lot of waiters, waitresses. Someone who’s successful has a background that’s not predictable.”
- “No leader can do it alone. I asked my friend Rob Forbes—who created Design Within Reach and Public Bikes—about this one. He said to surround yourself with people you trust, who complement your skill set, keep your ego in check.”
- “I don’t know what luxury is anymore. A good peach is luxury.”
- “Pay attention to details. I micromanage. I used to feel badly, then I realized, people say you shouldn’t micromanage because the textbooks say it or the business schools say it. Ask your customers if they’d like you to micromanage.”
- “Marketing only works if the product does.”
- “Mission statements are a waste of time. Just live by them.”
One piece of advice stuck out for me: "surround yourself with people you trust... keep your ego in check". I could not agree with this more! There are too many times I have witness an "emperor-has-no-clothes" situation. Making sure one has people around them who can give honest (and in the best interest) advice is key.
What are your thoughts on Mickey Drexler's tidbits to success? Do you agree or disagree with any of his points? If so, please share!
P.S. The title of the article reminded me of the classic 80's "The Secret of My Success" movie staring Michael J. Fox. For a second I pictured Mickey working in the mail room, and secretly posing as an executive. ;)
The bit about traveling abroad really chaps my hide. I did a semester abroad in England and we were not rich. I'd never even been to summer camp and the experience really opened my eyes.ReplyDelete
Does this guy have Asperger's or is he just a pr*ck?
I totally agree. I studied abroad in Brussels in 2005 and am still paying off my credit card for that life-changing semester 8 years later. I wouldn't take it back for anything. I'd also like to add that I worked at a j.crew the summer before I left to help finance the trip. What a clown.Delete
Totally agree. I lived abroad for 3 years and my daughter was along for the ride. It was a life changing experience. We Americans need to get outside our 50 states and experience the rest of the world for a time if at all possible--not just traveling but living in another country--very different experiences. (I know not everyone wants to or is able to but I am so glad we as a family did...changes everything about how I view the US and the world...)Delete
AGREE! I prefer candidates who have chosen to study abroad at some point because it means they take risks, are open to new experiences, can adjust to unfamiliar situations, and are exposed to people with different backgrounds than their own, which allows them to think outside the box. Many people who go abroad finance it themselves.Delete
This one bothred me most as well. Mickey needs to redefine his definitions of working class and privileged.Delete
I spent a semester abroad in Spain and it was one of the most enriching times in my life. It taught me to be flexible. I learned true independence of spirit. I met some incredible people. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
Yeah, he really sounded like an ass with that little comment amounting to calling everyone who has studied abroad entitled. I couldn't take anything else in the article seriously after I saw that. Stick to what you know; don't spout off on things you don't.ReplyDelete
(Yes, I studied abroad, but scholarships and student loans paid for the majority of it, and I worked hard at my minimum wage job beforehand to save spending money for my time there! Gosh, I sure am entitled!)
I LOLd at "I don't know what luxury is anymore". I am pretty sure he knows that a $1800 python bag is a luxury while he is throwing us peaches...ReplyDelete
Mickey I think luxury is in the details, and since you are not a peach farmer perhaps seams and linings could be paid attention to! And buttons that don't pop off!ReplyDelete
How are they going to interact with all those Italian leather/wool/whatnot curators if they don't have people who learned Italian abroad? I dislike this guy quite a bit.ReplyDelete
This article is hilarious. I'm pretty sure I've ran into several associates who mistreat customers based on thinking their worth is a bit more than customers.ReplyDelete
Just wagering a guess here, but wondering if it isn't likely true that Mickey: 1) didn't go to a big-name school 2) didn't get great grades 3) has waited tables 4) has never worked for a micromanager. He comes across as incredibly arrogant, IMO. Yes, as a customer, I want the details to be right--but I don't buy that micromanaging makes that happen. Hiring independent thinkers who take initiative and giving them the authority to act like owners makes that happen. Just my 2c :)ReplyDelete
What a Boob.ReplyDelete
I liked a couple of his points. He's certainly right that no leader does it alone. Mission statements are a waste of time if they only exist on paper and aren't implemented. Being in HR I do sometimes wish that the folks who give college students advice about resumes were better at it. I am not sure I can make a judgment based ona bunch of sound bites, some of which may not have their context. Having said that, he doesn't sound like a guy whose attitude I would like working around! Still, as Alexis points out, he must be doing something right because J. Crew is successful and becoming moreso.ReplyDelete
I think their PR department deserves as much credit as ole Mickey.Delete
Those folks are some sort of promotional savants.
It would have been nice to see the text of the interview and what he was asked that prompted these statements. He shouldn't have said what he did about being entitled if you've studied abroad, he should have made his point with more tact, but I understand and agree with his point that a resume doesn't need to look impressive for a person to be a good worker or to be considered for employment at his company. As for micro-managing, I think J. Crew could probably use more of it!ReplyDelete
I agree, and I got and agreed with his points.Delete
Alexis, that movie is the cheesiest lol!ReplyDelete
Well next time I waste half an hour depilling a sweater I will send the resulting fuzz pile to him. Micromanage that, in the immortal words of Robert DeNiro.ReplyDelete
I was so desperate the other day and grabbed my husband's electric shaver.
Unfortunately I clogged it and all my Crew sweaters are covered with pills.
I have stuffing for a small pillow after de-pilling my JC cashmere tee this morning. (second wearing)Delete
"The person is the resume, not what's on a piece of paper." But you usually have to know how to construct that piece of paper before someone in HR will agree to see you in person. Do I think that Mickey handles the hiring process for each potential employee from start to finish? AS IF.ReplyDelete
Working for a micro-manager sucks. I think I'll send his Executive Assistant a fruit basket and a bottle of scotch.
If Mickey is such a micromanager, then I guess the 82* perfect shirts I have with holes in the underarms are his fault?ReplyDelete
I really feel like it's only wise to take credit for being a "detail oriented micromanager" if your company gets the details right more often than not. J Crew does a pretty good job with that on the design side but the execution process has been getting worse. So maybe Mickey just needs to get better at micromanaging?
Mickey sounds like the guy that's a nightmare to sit next to at a bar, at an airport, at a business meeting-talks about himself way too much to imagine that even half of what he says is real.ReplyDelete
Off topic, but is anyone who owns a double cloth Metro coat in a size 10 willing to measure it? TIAReplyDelete
I would, but mine is from last year, so the measurements may have changed... If you can catch the chat feature at jcrew.com, they will gladly give you measurements. I find it TTS, and love it! HTH :)Delete
Actually, last year's would be better! I'm looking at an ebay coat from last year.Delete
I liked what he had to say. Mickey and JC aren't perfect, but he knows what his ideals are. I agree with Mickey about what the "travel abroad" thing has become. There are so many resume building kids (and parents) that conflate travel abroad for actual work experience.ReplyDelete
I think that Mickey was trying to convey that privilege is a poor substitute for qualifications, and that having to work hard to achieve your goals is important.
Raina, surely you can make your point without snarky comments about Aspergers/savants?ReplyDelete
Raina referred to the PR dept. as "savants". The definition of a savant is one of great learning, a genius. Nothing snarky.Delete
In the context of her previous remark connecting Aspergers or "just a pr**ck, I'd say it was snarky. We are asked to refrain from comments here that are racist, homophobic or just plain mean. Not too difficult to do, surely?ReplyDelete
I'm sorry. I missed the previous remark.Delete
"Aspergers or "just a pr**ck"Delete
I have to agree. I also find that remark offensive.
I'm sorry, but I have to say something about his entitled comment. I am not by any stretch of the imagination what is deemed "privileged or considered entitled", would love to be though. I just don't understand why people have a disdain for people they consider "privileged" a.k.a. with money. If I could provide, I would love to send my kids to study abroad. I think any parent would love their child to have a better life than they did, and if they had the means, would do so. And, I agree with JCrewJD, not everybody who does well for themselves was handed everything, just like not everybody who was handed everything has a disregard for those who weren't.ReplyDelete
@ savvy shopper: I'm gonna take a stab at the subtext of his "entitled" comment. The only time that someone in Mickey Drexler's position would be meeting with a possible entry-level job candidate would be after they had been vetted by an entire department of people, OR if he owed someone a favor. Mickey probably gets requests from the privileged and/or well-connected for him to meet with their kids/grandkids and give them a job all the time. Sounds like Ms. Sherman caught him on a day when he had seen one-too-many 21-year-olds who felt that their "life experience" > work experience.ReplyDelete
I used to work for the president of a National non-profit, and he got requests from donors to meet with their kids for "job advice" all the time. Some of them were very sharp and my boss would try to help them find a position. Others were pretty useless and caused my boss to shake his head after they left.
I think Mickey needs to take his own advice and pay more attention to details, otherwise there wouldn't be so many sale racks stuffed to overflowing with shopworn, pilling, ill-fitting clothing, and way too short dresses and skirts.ReplyDelete
Give your customers better quality WEARABLE garments at reasonable prices...that is what we want and have been asking for!
If you "Surround yourself with people you trust", you should not need to micromanage them.ReplyDelete
"Marketing only works if the product does." Well, you can fool me once...
Met him the other day, he is just as arrogant in person as he is in real life. Bashed his competitors during the interview with remarks such as "Do not go to work at Gap Inc. they're awful" and "Saks sucks." Very unprofessional and so disappointing that this is who is behind J.Crew. And yes, he is just a prick.ReplyDelete