Even if you don’t know it, what you’ve worn in the past decade has probably been influenced by Mickey Drexler and Somsack Sikhounmuong. Their knowledge of what young people want to buy established J.Crew and Madewell as the authorities on Americana and paved the way for minimalist labels like Everlane. Now, they’re taking on a new brand together.
Drexler has been involved with affordable-yet-desirable basics brands like J.Crew, Gap, and Madewell (J.Crew’s sister brand). He was the longtime CEO and Chairman of J.Crew. While he was CEO, he launched Madewell and transformed J.Crew (with the help of talented designers like Jenna Lyons and Sikhounmuong) into the brand of Michelle Obama. Since leaving J.Crew Group, he’s become chairman of Outdoor Voices, the activewear brand of choice for young people with an Instagram presence. Sikhounmuong worked at J.Crew for 16 years before leaving the company. He had worked as the head of design at Madewell and oversaw J.Crew’s women’s collection before replacing Lyons as head designer at J.Crew. He also made one of the first oversize, faux-fur coats at Fashion Week. In short, he and Drexler have an impressive track record.
Now, the two are working together on Drexler’s son Alex Drexler’s brand Alex Mill, a menswear-only brand founded in 2012. Alex and Sikhounmuong will be partners, with Sikhounmuong as the creative director charged with creating a womenswear collection. Mickey will be an investor and strategic adviser. The collection drops today on retailers like Nordstrom, Net-a-Porter, and Goop. Yes, traditionally those are red flags that read “EXPENSIVE” but the brand is affordable. Prices range from $35–$175 for an edited collection of jumpsuits inspired by vintage flight suits, jackets lined with vintage silk scarves, and cozy knits.
On the surface, it looks very similar to Madewell, J.Crew, or even Gap, really. How does their striped shirt or work blazer differ from any other? Sikhounmuong describes that X factor as the “emotion” in a design.
“I think a lot of times people think to be understandable, it has to be boring. It has to be emotional,” he said. “What’s going to make you want to wear it every day is the details and the little flowers or the tapering or the wash. That’s what’s going to set it aside from other T-shirts.” That’s why the menswear shirts have oddly shaped pockets, why the chino pants are designed with a joggerlike gusset to make them more comfortable and modern, and why there are embroidered hearts hidden near the buttons on a striped shirt.
“I always go back to that idea of packing. When you pack, you think What do I need the fewest of but to get the most bang out of?” he said. “And when you’re on vacation you buy a few fun emotional pieces. So it ends up as a mix of pieces you love.”
For him as a designer, the collection is different because it’s much smaller that what he’s used to. Since he had time to really design each piece, he describes the resulting collection as “the perfect rack of clothes” and his new job as a “really nice change.” Hopefully the people who have been buying his and Drexler’s clothes for years feel the same. See the collection below.