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FASHION VALUE CHAIN

Supreme and J.Crew appear to have little in common at first glance. One is influenced by New York City’s rough skate culture of the 1990s, while the other is influenced by the preppy style that evolved at Ivy League institutions in the 1910s. However, Brendon Babenzien, who spent more than a decade at Supreme before taking over J.Crew’s menswear department in 2021, sees a clear link between the two. Both aesthetics, when done effectively, should be timeless and resistant to trends. “Fashion is about convincing you that what you own is no longer relevant in order to encourage you to buy more items,” he argues. “However, fashion does not enter the conversation at [J.Crew or Supreme].” They talk about how fantastic it is to wear your

Babenzien has been a staple on the American fashion scene for three decades. As Supreme’s creative director for nearly two decades, he honed his design abilities. He quit the streetwear company in 2015 to relaunch Noah, the preppy menswear label he founded with his wife Estelle in 2002. He continues to design for Noah, and his fall/winter collection was just unveiled.

J.Crew hired him last May, a year after the company declared bankruptcy. Babenzien’s debut collection was unveiled last month, and it revives simple, unfussy menswear staples from the brand’s heritage, such as paisley ties, Fair Isle sweaters, and striped Oxford shirts. Babenzien’s designs received great marks from fashion critics ranging from GQ to HighSnobeity. There’s a chance he’ll steer J.Crew.

Babenzien’s meteoric rise paralleled the rise of quick fashion, which currently dominates the sector. In the 1990s, pioneers such as H&M and Zara established intricate worldwide supply chains, depending on low-wage Asian manufacturers that could produce fashionable designs at low rates. Consumers began to regard clothing as disposable, and garments are now stacking up in landfills at a truckload every second. To compete, brands ranging from Old Navy to Urban Outfitters have been compelled to release hundreds of new styles each season while keeping costs low. Shein, a Chinese giant, has accelerated the business model during the previous five years, updating its website with 6,000 new styles every day and generated $16 billion in revenue last year.