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J.Crew Poobah Mickey Drexler Finally Lets Us Into His Brain

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J.Crew's chairman and CEO Mickey Drexler answered tough questions about the current state of retail from Bloomberg Television anchor Stephanie Ruhle yesterday, and his comments offer insight into the inner workings of Drexler's brain and, perhaps, J.Crew's current strategy.

There is one direction Drexler says J.Crew definitely won't be pursuing, and that's activewear. He told Ruhle: "Well I'll tell you where we thought about being in, was the active professional kind of business, the yoga or the Under Armour kind of business, but we're not getting in because we don't have the expertise to do that. We're getting into businesses that we're going to be more aggressive about, more ambition about, and invest more, but we're pretty satisfied with the breadth of our products. And now it's a matter of the correct expansion, correct design involvement, and quality. And I say quality because that's really important."

So no J.Crew-branded yoga pants for the foreseeable future. Is it because the J.Crew realizes they can't do this better than Under Armour, as Drexler says? Maybe because J.Crew knows its shopper so well, and trendy athleisure wear doesn't fit into that vision. Or Drexler afraid of reaching into new product lines and overextending, after his experience at Gap.

Ruhle also wanted to know what Drexler thinks of fast fashion. For the record, Drexler likes Zara. He says of Zara: "If you want clothes that don't last a long time and you want to be of the moment and you want a designer look, from what I hear—I don't wear their clothes—you might go there. It's not going to be in your wardrobe a year from today. I think they know that. They're really good at what they do. We on the other hand make clothes that we want people to keep and never throw out.

And in an era where nearly every store is offering deals left and right, Drexler admires retailers who never go on sale. "I am so jealous of Louis Vuitton, okay?," he said. "And that's a 100, 200-year-old brand that has had high integrity for a couple of hundred years. You might add Chanel into that as the only perhaps other one out there and a few others."

Since the world is "over-stored" and "over-garmented," Drexler suggests, retailers have to differentiate their products and can't rely on price slashing—even if customers demand it. "I think the retailer has to have pride and integrity in what they do. And there are enough of us left out there, maybe much less who aren't playing the price game. It's what we do. It is hard, but nothing's ever been easy," he said.
· Drexler: You've Got to Deliver More Than Your Competitors [Bloomberg]
· Drunk J.Crew Is the Tumblr Everyone Needed [Racked]
· A Closer Look at J.Crew's Spring Accessories, Which Are Perfect [Racked]
· J.Crew to Launch a New Budget Store Called J.Crew Mercantile [Racked]
· Mickey Drexler's Nickname Used to Be 'Stubs' [Racked]