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How to take over the fashion world, according to the women who made J.Crew cool again

Amanda Krause   

How to take over the fashion world, according to the women who made J.Crew cool again
  • On Tuesday night, Libby Wadle and Olympia Gayot of J.Crew were honored at the 2024 Parsons Benefit.
  • Speaking with BI, they shared advice for finding success in fashion careers like theirs.

If you've started shopping at J.Crew again in recent years, you likely have Libby Wadle and Olympia Gayot to thank.

Wadle was named CEO of J.Crew Group in 2020, and Gayot became the brand's creative director of women's and kids' design that same year.

Since then, the two have routinely been credited with reviving the legacy label by introducing it to a new generation. And they've made their jobs look easy.

So, when Wadle, Gayot, and the J.Crew team attended the annual Parsons Benefit on Tuesday night, Business Insider asked the two executives how they think young fashion creatives can succeed in similar careers.

"First, I think they need to do what they love," Wadle advised those seeking jobs in the fashion industry.

Libby Wadle's take: find a job that nurtures your passion

According to Wadle, the first step to a successful fashion career is determining your niche. Maybe you want to design clothes, create marketing campaigns, or lead brands like her.

The key is doing what you're passionate about and then finding a work environment that supports you, she said.

"If you're in design and you're a creative person, you should look to work for people who honor and nurture that," Wadle told BI. "You can find many people in business who will do that and really put creativity first. There's a lot of opportunities out there, and I think people coming out of a place like Parsons should really look for that."

Wadle was honored with the Parsons Table Award, which is given to people in the fashion industry who have deeply inspired Parsons students and made a fundamental impact on the design industry at large.

Olympia Gayot's take: find inspiration in the mundane

Gayot has led the charge when it comes to modernizing J.Crew's beloved classic pieces. She's done so by balancing "art and commerce," she told BI.

"That might sound like a less creative answer, but on the design side, it really is about being super creative and trusting your instinct," she said. "Instinct is so important to a designer, and if you don't have that, it's hard."

Gayot's fashion instinct is tangible from the moment you meet her. She looked effortlessly cool at the Parsons Benefit, dressed in a black, double-breasted blazer over a beaded skirt. And mid-interview, she was even pulled aside by another J.Crew executive who needed fashion advice.

She said those who want to follow in her creative footsteps should start by finding inspiration in everyday life.

"Get inspiration from travel, friends, books, literature, movies," she told BI. "Really fill your cup up in terms of inspiration so that you have a lot of your own ideas to create from."

Those ideas then need to be translated into products that your customers love.

"Without your customers, you don't have a brand," Gayot said. "So really listen to them and understand what their needs are. So much of my job, which I love, is talking to people. Do you need an outfit for work? Are you a stay-at-home mom? Do you want to look chic on the weekends? Are you going on a trip? It's that real-life perspective of the end use that I think is really important."

The Parsons Benefit was hosted at Cipriani Wall Street on Tuesday night. The annual event raises funds for student scholarships, inspires young generations of designers, and celebrates influential creatives in fashion and design.

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