J. Crew Names New Chief Design Officer

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Johanna Uurasjarvi

Johanna Uurasjarvi comes from West Elm and Anthropologie.

J. Crew on Monday announced Johanna Uurasjarvi is taking over as chief design officer for the embattled retailer, whose well-known creative director Jenna Lyons stepped down last year after a two-year sales slump.

A native of Finland, Uurasjarvi was previously creative director of West Elm, a home decor branch of Williams-Sonoma, and creative director of Anthropologie for 10 years. At both companies, she worked with Jim Brett, who is now CEO of J. Crew. 

"I am thrilled to join the talented team at J. Crew and help to evolve this incredible iconic brand," Uurasjarvi said in a statement. "I also look forward to working with Jim again. His vision, values and unique understanding of today's consumer make him a special leader.”

Uurasjarvi launched Anthropologie's first in-house design team and developed its wholesale brand Leifsdottir. 

“I wanted to pull from my Scandinavian heritage, which is good design, it’s minimal, it’s inspired by nature, and there’s simplicity but elegant beauty in it, too,” Uurasjarvi told her college website, Aalto University, which also states that Taylor Swift and Sarah Jessica Parker have worn her brand. “I wanted to combine that with my inherent ability to be a great storyteller, and layer that storytelling with print, pattern and color. I also really wanted it to be about the craft — fine-tailoring of every detail inside and outside the garment.”

In 2015, Uurasjarvi was hired to lead the product design team at West Elm, reporting to its then-president, Brett. She was known for her “New Modern” collection.

It will be interesting to see if she brings a Scandinavian design approach to J. Crew, perhaps streamlining the clothing, or if she adds elements of her home decor experience, perhaps even launching J. Crew home.

Brett reflected on the many years he has worked with Uurasjarvi and her eye for design: "Johanna brings more than 25 years of fashion and design experience with a unique understanding of how customers shop and live. She is a visionary with impeccable taste who will undoubtedly inspire our team, our partners, and our customers. I am thrilled to work with Johanna again. We had a powerful and successful partnership at West Elm and Anthropologie, and to work with her again is an honor."