ORLANDO — Millard “Mickey” Drexler doesn’t need any new clothes. He doesn’t think other people need them, either.
Dressed in a crisp white button-down (custom-made in 2007) as he spoke to the crowd at the 22nd annual ICR Conference, here, on Wednesday, he explained why.
“It still works,” Drexler said. “There’s no reason why you couldn’t wear it for the last 12 years.”
As a longtime retailer — and the person responsible for running companies like J. Crew Group Inc. and Gap Inc. — that business sense seems counterintuitive. Retailers, after all, are constantly trying to encourage people to buy more.
But Drexler said it’s a matter of convincing people to buy the best-fitting products.
“No one needs new clothes right now, but everyone needs the right clothes,” he said. “Our vision is to not get people to throw out their clothes. I don’t like expensive things, unless they’ll last forever.
“People say, ‘consumers want value,’” Drexler continued. “But if you go for a cheap meal and it doesn’t taste good you’re not going to be happy. People want style and value. They want taste. And I’m not sure where it is today.”
But that’s not Drexler’s only pet peeve in fashion industry. He also doesn’t care for streetwear — (“I personally don’t understand it. But that doesn’t mean anything. If customers like it, they like it.”) — or retail’s massive increase in promotions.
“I can’t stand what we have to go through sometimes in the industry with sales, sales, sales,” Drexler said. “To me, it devalues your brand. It forces a sale mentality. A lot of the big legacy brands can’t do without being 40 [percent] off or 50 [percent] off.”
The retailer, who is now a board member and the former chairman of Outdoor Voices, gave the example of a retail chief executive officer friend whose brand is not doing well.
“He told me, ‘It’s impossible to sell this stuff at a regular price anymore,’” Drexler said. “I didn’t want to tell him — this is a good friend — well, if his clothes look great, if they were priced right and if he stopped — he has to stop it [having sales] — he could rebuild the brand.”
That could be why he’s involved in Alex Mill, the fashion firm started by his son in 2012. Drexler said the brand has timeless basics. Not trendy throwaway pieces. And it doesn’t do sales.
“[Alex Mill] resides with a sense of style and longevity,” Drexler said. “As a customer, you shouldn’t be going, ‘Bingo, I got 40 percent off today.’ This is how we stay true to our mission. Not more clothes, but the right clothes.”