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ICYMI: J.Crew has a new women's designer. Today we got the first look at J.Crew under Somsack Sikhounmuong's direction via the brand's fall 2016 New York Fashion Week presentation.
Sikhounmuong was previously the head of women's design for J.Crew Group-owned Madewell, where he grew the business significantly. Prior to that role, he designed accessories and then apparel for J.Crew, so this new gig is something of a coming home. "I've been at J.Crew for 15 years, working with Jenna [Lyons] and Mickey [Drexler]," Sikhounmuong told Racked at the presentation. "When you're at a company for that long, things just become instinctual." On the transition from Madewell to J.Crew: "They were like 'get up here!' and I took the elevator and I started."
Head-to-toe, the looks felt more daring than we've seen from J.Crew in recent seasons. (Here's spring 2016 and fall 2015, for comparison's sake.) The clothes and accessories were as colorful as ever, styled in high-contrast pairings: hot pink with Robin's egg blue, lavender with acid yellow, rose with emerald green. "We wanted color, like Baskin-Robbins color," Sikhounmuong said. "Happy, joyful; the kind of color that's going to make you smile."
Patterns, too, got a jolt, including florals, stripes, geometric prints, argyle, and leopard. Sikhounmuong explains the inspiration came from interiors, like wallpapers and Italian tile floors. "We were talking about 'pretty,' what does 'pretty' actually mean?" he adds. "Old school coats are pretty, pink, ruffles, a silk scarf," he mused. "Being J.Crew it couldn't all be one thing, so we looked at naval uniforms; peacoats, and the tailoring that comes with that."
It seems like the designer is enjoying his new post, reflected not only in his energy at today's debut, but in the vibrant, sometimes out-there pieces that were on display. "At Madewell, the kind of tools I was playing with were a lot more limited than they are here," he says. "It was like I was given a pencil, a piece of paper, maybe an eraser," he continues, "but here [at J.Crew] I was given all that plus sequins and markers and paints. When you have all of that, you have to have fun."