Canadian designer to step in as Jenna Lyons leaves J. Crew

Fashion retailer J. Crew's head designer Jenna Lyons is stepping away from the company after 26 years, leaving the design team in the hands of Canadian Somsack Sikhounmuong.

Sikhounmuong, who has been with the company since 2001, is to be promoted to chief design officer. Formerly chief designer at sister label Madewell, he is currently lead creative for women's wear.

J.Crew chief executive Millard Drexler told trade publication Business of Fashion he and Lyons agreed it was time for a change at the brand.

Like many fashion retailers, J. Crew is being squeezed by fast fashion, high rents and changing consumer tastes.

There will be pressure on Sikhounmuong to create a new aesthetic that captures the imagination of U.S. buyers.

He is to oversee women's, men's and children's design teams while Drexler takes charge of other creative departments.

Sikhounmuong grew up in Oshawa, Ont., and moved to New York at age 18 to study design.

He'll be in Toronto later this week as a judge of the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards.

Lyons helped J. Crew grow in 1990s

Lyons is credited with creating a fresh image for J. Crew in the 1990s with bright colours and preppy styles.

She will remain a creative adviser at the company through this year, but has not said what her future plans are.

"It has been beyond my wildest dreams to work with such an amazing team of people at such an incredible brand and alongside Mickey—one of retail's most talented visionaries," Lyons said in a statement.

"I am excited about the next chapter for J.Crew as well as the opportunity for other creative leaders within the organization to step up and take on new responsibilities."