J.Crew Taps Noah Co-Founder Brandon Babenzien as Chief Menswear Designer

The hire comes as an attempt to "disrupt the brand"

Brandon Babenzien
Brandon Babenzien is J.Crew's new chief menswear designer.

On Monday, May 17, it was announced that Noah co-founder and former Supreme design director Brandon Babenzien has been named J.Crew’s chief designer of menswear, with Babenzien’s first designs expected to hit stores in mid-2022.

The news comes after what proved to be a tough 2020 for the brand, which included filing for a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in May, largely brought on by the pandemic. The brand was able to emerge from the bankruptcy in September, subsequently securing a $400 million exit term loan due in 2027 and private equity firm Anchorage Capital Group as new owners.

Yet prior to J.Crew’s financial struggles, the brand faced criticism for being out of touch with current trends, a problem no doubt exacerbated by the pandemic. Once considered the pinnacle of prep in the ’80s and ’90s, the brand has struggled to adapt its designs to the emergence of newer, more popular aesthetics like streetwear. Presumably, this is where Babenzien comes in.

Speaking with The Wall Street Journal, J.Crew Chief Executive Libby Wadle assured that classic styles and silhouettes will continue to maintain importance within the men’s line but with the expectation that Babenzien will work to push the limits of the brand through his designs. “We need to disrupt the business,” said Wadle.

As for Babenzien, in an interview with WWD he describes himself as “a lifelong J.Crew customer” whose personal style is “rooted in American culture,” the essence of which is evident in his often nouveau-preppy designs for Noah. Hinting at early design plans, Babenzien mentions keeping the slim-fit of the beloved Ludlow suit but potentially adding newer, looser silhouettes like pleated plants. And while we don’t expect to see the more ostentatious elements of Babenzien’s design (think zebra-printed waxed jackets made in collaboration with Barbour) at play in his work for J.Crew, we can hopefully expect a similar re-imagining of classics. “He’s got a lot of rope and room to push,” said Wadle.

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