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LUXURY’S NEW WORLD: J. Crew might not immediately leap to mind when the fashion world thinks of luxury, but Fortune clearly lumps the retailer into the category — it’s made Millard “Mickey” Drexler, the high-flying company’s chief executive, the cover boy of the magazine’s annual luxury issue. The fast-talking, hyperactive Drexler rarely gives in-depth interviews and hasn’t appeared on a magazine cover in 10 years, but he invited Fortune’s assistant managing editor John Brodie into Crew’s Greenwich Village offices to talk about taking the brand more upscale and also about Madewell, a new label that is more “jeans and boots rather than skirts and sweater sets.” In a meeting with designers and executives in July, Drexler tells the group, “You know what ends up on the markdown racks? All the weird colors. Guys don’t wear orange or citron.” He says the current retail environment is the worst he’s seen in 40 years in the business, so he encourages designers to produce merchandise that is “fresh and popular.”
Drexler is the centerpiece of the magazine’s roughly 40-page section on luxury, which includes a piece on how the sector is no longer recession proof and a story on Prada, by Suzanne Kapner photographed by Brigitte Lacombe. Kapner writes that Prada chief executive officer Patrizio Bertelli has indicated the fashion house will list on the Milan Stock Exchange by the end of the year. (However, Prada has been down this road several times before and called off plans for a listing and, in recent statements, has hedged on timing.) The reason for Kapner’s certainty a listing will go forward this time? “Bertelli, though, has little choice in his decision to go public: He needs the money. He and the rest of the Prada family are responsible for the $956 million in debt — most of it accrued through the failed acquisition spree — that is on the balance sheet of a holding company through which they exercise their control,” she writes. We’ll see.
New advertisers for the section include Ermenegildo Zegna, DKNY Men, Versace and Johnston & Murphy. Brodie said work began on the issue last winter but the tone of stories clearly represents today’s economy. “My colleagues and I are taking a snapshot of the fashion and retail worlds.” And, along the way, helping in the continual evolution of the word “luxury.” — Amy Wicks