Archive for May, 2013

At finalization…

At finalization, the company’s merchants present to Drexler samples of the goods they’ve decided to order from the company’s designers—what colors and sizes and in what numbers—and what they intend to charge for them. “We’re here to value the goods right,” Drexler said. He peppers the merchants with questions, in a kind of commercial catechism designed both to refine the decisions being made and to instruct his charges in the rigors of merchandising. His inquisitions have an auctioneer’s tempo and a depositional intensity, but they also project an ease that derives from the pleasure he seems to take in them, and the pleasure, albeit of a wary and poised kind, that his employees seem to take in him.

New Yorker Profile on Millard Drexler (J. Crew)


In the nineties…

In the nineties, Drexler became known as the Merchant Prince, for his transformation of the Gap from a shaggy little jeans chain to a gigantic but fairly nimble purveyor of the stuff everyone wears. For better or for worse, he helped transform the way Americans dress, or underdress… “Success” is often just a fancy word for “luck,” but a recurrence of it suggests the subsistence of design.

More than once, I asked Drexler to define “merchandising.” Sometimes he’d put the question to one of his junior merchants, who had perhaps got some of their definitions from the loudspeaker. “It’s telling America what to buy,” one told him. “It’s about investing in something and then selling it,” another said. These seemed to strike him as too prosaic or crass. They made no mention of the eye or the gut or of the throbbing sensation that comes over you when you see something that you are sure will sell, and sell out. …
The merchant must choose which goods to carry, in which assortments and colors, and at what price. It is a matter equally of capital allocation and taste. Drexler told me about a guy who operates a shoe company, who had just come to see him for advice. Drexler had chided him for running out of a shoe that was hot and overordering one that was not. “I said, ‘Why the hell would you buy the brown shoe more than the gray shoe? Clearly, the gray one looks better.’ He doesn’t know that. I know it. Because it’s internal. Or it’s external. But one shoe’s better than the other. It’s basically putting together a painting. And you cannot argue with a painting. You can’t debate what the right color is. There’s no answer. There’s no committee.”

New Yorker Profiles somehow manage to Deify anyone or anything. (And also, how crazy different is this industry?)