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Joshua Abramovich

This year, Brown Fashion Week has been fortunate to host a remarkable lineup of speakers. Most recently, Millard (or Mickey) Drexler, the CEO of Alex Mill, discussed his story and opinions on the fashion industry. Notably, Drexler helped grow many American brands like Gap, Old Navy, and J. Crew.

Daniela Siegal, a sophomore at Brown, moderated the event and began by asking about starting in fashion. Originally from the Bronx, NY, Drexler mentioned that he has worked since the age of 10. Meanwhile, he attended the Bronx School of Science, which he described as having many intelligent students around him. In the family, Drexler’s mom was a secretary while his father worked in the shipping room of a coat manufacturer. Drexler explained that his dad resented him for trying something new, similar to department stores providing little space for creativity.

He started in fashion by joining Bloomingdales. After two years, Drexler joined Macy's, later working at Anne Taylor. He said he then went to work at Gap and was shocked by the company falling apart. However, he turned it around by selling quality goods and hiring the right people. Soon after, Target released a cheaper line of jeans in the New York Times. To Drexler’s dismay, 80% of jeans sold in America were priced lower than Gap. He responded by selling more affordable styles in Old Navy.

Drexler was then asked how he stands out in the basics category. Rejecting the term, he said he prefers clothes that never go out of style. This philosophy was inspired by Ralph Lauren and Benetton, encouraging against throwing away garments from previous seasons. While this practice alone is more beneficial for the environment, Drexler said he also uses 100% cotton and recycled denim to construct jeans. In contrast, many competing brands have been greenwashing, or falsely advertising their garments as sustainable. In fact, Drexler estimated that only 3-4% of clothing is actually sustainable.

When discussing college students that want to dress well on a budget, Drexler promoted Zara as a great solution. He advised, “Figure out if it’ll look good in your closet." Also, Drexler encouraged students to seek hand me downs or vintage apparel, claiming that the price does not say anything about the appearance.

At the end of the conversation, Drexler shared advice with the viewers. First, he recognized that his friend told him to take the job at Anne Taylor even though he hated his work. Moreover, Drexler said that “you may not like your first job, but by your fourth you should.” In addition, he recommended following your instinct, being curious, doing research, and learning as much as you can.

Fashion@Brown is tremendously grateful to hear Drexler's success story and advice as a businessman. His triumphs truly make him a fashion inspiration.

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