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J.Crew’s Mickey Drexler Takes a Leading Role at Outdoor Voices

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He’s weighing in on everything from product to hiring.

A woman wears a white crop top and matching shorts.
A look from Outdoor Voices’s collection.
Photo: Outdoor Voices

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Activewear brand Outdoor Voices has someone new weighing in on its look and business: Mickey Drexler, the merchandising legend who led J.Crew’s renaissance in the ’00s and exited the company in June after years of sinking sales.

Drexler has joined the four-year-old startup as chairman of the board, the first person to hold that position at Outdoor Voices. (He has the same title at J.Crew.) In this case it means he’s spending a few days a week in the office and working closely on product, merchandising, and hiring with CEO and founder Tyler Haney, who has counted Drexler as an advisor for the last few years.

“He and I are really running this together,” Haney says, noting that she’s already leaned on Drexler’s expertise for recruiting and vetting new team members. “He obviously has a track record that shows he can build a team well.”

Outdoor Voices launched at exactly the right time with exactly the right look. Haney’s vision of a fun, casual approach to exercise — visually represented by simple designs and neutral tones — struck a chord with acolytes of three growing movements in the lifestyle sphere: athleisure, boutique fitness, and minimalism. By 2014, Outdoor Voices was featured in J.Crew stores, and in 2016, it landed a collaboration with APC, the home of everything understated, expensive, and French.

Along the way, Outdoor Voices raised $22.5 million in funding from venture capital firms and, most recently, Drexler. He led a $9 million investment round that also included Walter Robb, the former CEO of Whole Foods.

Outdoor Voices has already started to expand its product in noticeable ways — its collection, for instance, has never been more colorful than it has been this summer. The brand has been known for having a tight assortment, Haney says, and Drexler is helping her figure out where to add to it. He frequently makes trips to Outdoor Voices’ stores and sends Haney and her team real-time feedback on the assortment. This sounds a lot like how he ran things back at J.Crew.

Before landing at J.Crew in 2003, Drexler transformed Gap; he also overlapped with Steve Jobs at Apple, where he served on the board until 2015.

Clearly, this is a “watch this space” situation. With Drexler’s connections and experience, the growth Outdoor Voices sees in the coming year could be big.