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J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler has a long line of retail successes under his belt and, in recognition of that legacy, he's lined up to receive the CFDA Founder's Award as part of the CFDA Fashion Awards next Monday. Drexler sat down with Style.com ahead of the awards show to dispense some of the career wisdom he's gained over the years at Gap and J.Crew.
"The advice I give [to students] is the same thing I give my kids: Work hard, work smart, don’t think that a title makes someone who they are," Drexler told Style.com's Nicole Phelps. As he continued, Drexler recounted a recent speech at the City College of New York where he had to squeeze advice into a 45-second time slot. "I said, 'Work hard, work smart, listen, and learn. Keep listening and learning.' I’m going to add to this list: 'Get back up when you’ve been knocked down. Don’t believe a lot of what you hear. Don’t be fooled by someone’s pedigree or résumé. And trust your gut. Be relentless in your pursuit, but be nice and respectful toward all others.'"
Above all, Drexler kept coming back to the connection between successful people and curious minds. "Every single day, I’m curious about everything," Drexler explained. "Curiosity is finding answers to things. And you know, you get some answers, and then you say, 'Well, this could be a business, this is an idea…' Then at some point, you’ll get to where you’d like to be."
Even after 40 years in the business, 70-year-old Drexler isn't thinking about retirement yet. "My job is a work in progress," he told Phelps. "Business is challenging right now, so it’s not as fun a work in progress as it normally would be. But what business doesn’t have its challenges as you go through? And I’ve been practicing my craft for many, many years. And someone who keeps practicing at what they do and being consistent at what they do, I think that’s better. So this is all advice I’d give to a young person, who will not listen anyway, since youth is wasted on the young."