“ Never coming to work is a serious problem ” – Glossy

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Running a startup, as opposed to a large corporation, has its pros and cons, said Mickey Drexler, the former CEO and President of J.Crew Group and CEO of Gap Inc. Today, Drexler is the Executive Chairman of Alex Mill. The fashion brand was founded in 2012 by his son, Alex Drexler, and Somsack Sikhounmuong, who formerly ran design at Madewell.

“When I started Old Navy, I had the Gap bank to fund it… Then I started Madewell, whose name I owned and sold to J.Crew, and [it was] the same thing: I had J.Crew’s bank, ”Drexler said on the latest Glossy Podcast. “But with this activity, there are no big banks. There is my bank and my son’s bank; we have no other investor than us. And it is much more difficult.

Still, he said, “I love it. Because you are involved in every decision. You look at everything in detail. And you micromanage like crazy, which I love to do.

Rather than investors, Alex Mill has an “unofficial” board of directors, made up largely of people who work in the industry. “Understanding the fashion industry is a rarity if you’re not there,” he said.

Although Alex Mill is not yet profitable, Drexler said his business was “seven times higher than two and a half years ago.” And, he said, the company is gearing up to “step up the gas” by accelerating its growth. This includes liaising with a marketing agency; the addition of a company store in New York’s SoHo; get a good inventory and continue to sell at a high price.

“If we weren’t direct to the consumer, the products we sell would all be branded somewhere,” he said. “The most successful department store today is TJ Maxx.”

Below are additional conversation highlights, which have been edited slightly for clarity.

Hire the right people
“The signs are: how fast they are walking. If I see someone walking slowly, I would be a little worried, because you have to go fast. And I’ve always had offices that weren’t fancy and closed, so I watch what they do while they wait. In the interview itself, I have to learn something from them. I have to feel it, I have to learn it. I need to know where they worked and what they did. And if they go to school, what would they do as the president of the school? I want to know if people are thinking of things. You can chat for half an hour and just get a feel for if there is any energy. You have an idea of ​​who is entitled and who is not, or who is thinking well and who is not. I am not impressed with the ratings. I’m not impressed with where they went to college. I’m not impressed with all of these “I’m a special person” signs. Or: “I belong to this club and to this club.” Give me a good waiter or waitress. Give me someone who has worked, who got a little kick in the ass, and who is neither spoiled nor allowed. If they worked at McDonald’s, I want to know what they would do if they were the store manager. I have a pet peeve – [I asked about] Starbucks and a woman had no answer on how to make something better there. And [that’s] not a good sign. You know what could you do better [at] your job? If you were your boss, what would you do? I want to know all this. By the way, these are not “interview questions”. I’m curious. I just want to know that they think about each job strategically. “

The need of the New York fashion office
“I lived in San Francisco for 18 years [for] Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic. Our design team was entirely in New York City, so I made a good commute. I don’t know if New York is that important, but in fashion I think it’s very important. I think there are a lot of creative people here. That might change, by the way, because a lot of people think they can live somewhere else and work for New York companies. There’s a whole lot going on now because the folks last year worked on Zoom. Now I was away for four and a half months, living in a hot climate. And I realized, the second I came back, how much I had missed it. Especially in my world. You look at the merchandise, and [on Zoom,] the colors never looked right. You couldn’t smell the clothes. You couldn’t have spontaneity and creativity, because everything was: “The Zoom is at 2:15”, “The Zoom is this time”, “The Zoom is this time.” And so, I think New York is important in my world, but probably not in other worlds. But I do… never coming to work is a serious problem. Now there are jobs that I might not be familiar with – IT jobs, I know lawyers who don’t go to offices, but I find there is a certain spontaneity, creativity. [at an office]. [You see] someone there you can call them, [they] come. We have a small business and we can do it. But many of these big fashion companies all return on Labor Day. A friend of mine, founder and CEO of a $ 5 billion company, said 83% of associates voted not to come to work. He was pissed off, really pissed off, because he’s going to work. I would also be upset. People don’t show up often. And now I hear they don’t have to move, they can stay in another state. I like to have meetings, I like to get together, I like to talk about strategy and I like to have comments. And I think the locals add a lot to it. Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan [Chase] said last week: ‘If you are using social media while you are trying out the new restaurant, come work. ” I found it difficult for me to fill my day when I was not in the office. At the office, I fill my day.

The impact of the pandemic
“We actually had a great year. But I was really disappointed – look, everyone got their asses kicked. So we did that too. It made a big difference financially for us, but that’s life. And that hasn’t changed much. At this point in my life, I’ve seen it all. How many times have I hit a wall? Sometimes it might have cost me my job, or it might not have been. But [the year] it was OK. I mean, you deal with what you deal with. And that’s what we were dealing with. And we had no choice. We had an amazing Christmas – November and December of last year. We were out of stock, completely out of stock. I like to be a little optimistic about things, so I’m always on the lookout for good news and bad news. And the good news is, people loved our products. The bad news is we didn’t have enough. And so, we will continue and we will do our best. If I look at the merchandise I think we can win. I don’t like a lot of stores – there are some that I like and some that I don’t. I hear a lot of women say, “Where do I go shopping today? I hear it all the time. And I like to think of us as a place to shop. The biggest problem we had was that we didn’t have the right fit on a few of our pants, and our wetsuit was one size too big. And we are repairing or have solved all of this. And now we just have to buy more products. I’m a little allergic to inventory, but we need to buy more. “



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