Can This New Designer Save J.Crew?

Chris Benz. Photo: Gary Gershoff/WireImage

More changes are coming to J.Crew.

On Tuesday, Business of Fashion broke the news that designer Chris Benz is joining the brand as head of women’s design. He will also oversee Crewcuts, J.Crew’s children’s label.

Benz fills the role previously overseen by chief design officer, Johanna Uurasjarvi, who left the brand along with former chief executive, Jim Brett, at the end of 2018 after about a year. (J.Crew has yet to fill Brett’s role.)

Benz comes from the American fashion label, Bill Blass, where he’s held the position of creative director since 2015. This is not his first rodeo at J.Crew, however. He worked at the company right out of Parsons, designing under Jenna Lyons before launching his own brand in 2007. It later folded in 2012, but not before he made an impression on the New York fashion world with his pink hair and youthful sensibility.

“J.Crew is where I started my career and I have always loved the inspired mix of things — color and pattern, texture and quality — that defines it,” Benz told BoF in a statement. “I look forward to innovating on the brand’s essential classics to create an eclectic American style that is both polished and unique, and revives J.Crew as a destination where everyone can find something special.”

J.Crew has struggled financially over the last five years, narrowly avoiding bankruptcy. It has not found its footing since, despite a change in direction away from the more adventurous style of Lyons. Benz’s hire suggests the brand wishes to bring some of her impulses back, maintaining a middle ground between high-fashion and the masses.

Is the 30-something-year-old designer up to the task? Godspeed.

Can This New Designer Save J.Crew?