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Former Madewell Designer Somsack Sikhounmuong Makes His J.Crew Debut

And it's good.
A look from J.Crew's fall 2016 collection. Photo: Imaxtree

A look from J.Crew's fall 2016 collection. Photo: Imaxtree

J.Crew is back. After a less-than-thrilling spring 2016 presentation, the brand showed a fall collection at New York Fashion Week on Sunday that was easy, fun and glamorous, mixing signatures like Breton stripes, naval coats and statement jewelry with Italian-inspired prints and silhouettes.

J.Crew hasn't had it easy lately. After Mickey Drexler and Jenna Lyons took control of the company in 2002, J.Crew said goodbye to its fusty heritage look and introduced a new J.Crew: one that embraced color, embellishment and trends while staying true to the classics. But the company has faltered with customers in recent quarters, resulting in the dismissal of its head women's designer of four years, Tom Mora, in June. He was replaced by Somsack Sikhounmuong, who has worked at the company for some 15 years, most recently as head women's designer of its fast-growing, more casual Madewell brand.

While Madewell will "always have a special place in [his] heart," it was obvious that Sikhounmuong is thrilled to be working at the main label again. "We were joking that being at Madewell, the tools were a little more limited; I had a pencil and maybe an eraser. Here it's like I have a pencil, an eraser, a marker, prints, sequins and jewels."

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A look from J.Crew's fall 2016 collection. Photo: Imaxtree

A look from J.Crew's fall 2016 collection. Photo: Imaxtree

For fall, Sikhounmuong said he focused on color — "joyous, happy color that's going to make you smile when you see it." He and his team also explored "the meaning of pretty" and "traditional codes of femininity." The result was a collection heavy on pink, seen on everything from a tailored wool suit to a faux fur bomber, and other traditional girlie fare like glitter, ruffles and florals. All of this was tempered nicely by men's tailored pieces — a single-breasted caramel-color coat here, a houndstooth blazer there.

The focus may have been on color and femininity, but what really grabbed — and held — my interest were the vivid geometric and botanical prints, which, rendered on slouchy pajama sets and a flared trouser suit and paired with tasseled loafers, read very Alessandro Michele. They were drawn, Sikhounmuong said, from Italian interiors and tiling, and a trip to the Vatican. Some of the prints were designed in conjunction with Drake's, a men's accessories brand in London famous for its silk ties, which J.Crew has been collaborating with on the men's side for some time.

Together, it worked, representing all of the things that have come to excite us about J.Crew over the past decade. See it for yourself in the slideshow below.