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Jenna Lyons Is Leaving J.Crew

Amid sinking sales, the brand is moving in a new direction.

Jenna Lyons wears her signature glasses and a denim jacket.
Jenna Lyons, the former president and creative director of J.Crew.
Photo: Jared Siskin/Getty Images

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Without exaggeration, it’s the end of an era at J.Crew: Jenna Lyons, the creative director and president responsible for shaping the preppy-chic look shoppers have come to know so well, is leaving the company after 26 years.

Business of Fashion broke the news on Monday, reporting that Lyons has not yet announced what she’ll be doing next. According to a statement sent to Racked, she’ll stay on as a creative advisor until December 2017, when her contract officially ends.

To fill her place, J.Crew has promoted Somsack Sikhounmuong, who left J.Crew proper to become head of design for its Madewell brand and recently made the leap back to J.Crew. He’ll direct women’s, men’s, and children’s design; all other departments will report straight to CEO Mickey Drexler.

Lyons, a style star known for her slicked-back hair and statement glasses, transformed J.Crew in the past decade, making it brighter and more fashion-forward — cooler than it had been in a long time. But after a major boom, J.Crew’s sales began to falter and it started shifting away from its more high-fashion image. When Sikhounmuong returned to J.Crew from Madewell, the New York Times wondered, “Can a New Designer (Not Jenna Lyons) Fix J.Crew?” Not yet, apparently: During fiscal 2016, sales decreased 6 percent to $2 billion, having dropped 7 percent the year before that.

It’s been clear for some time now that J.Crew would need to change things up if it’s to restore its popularity with shoppers, and Lyons’s departure is the biggest signal possible that it’s aiming to do so.