Millard Drexler is to step down as chairman of US fashion retailer J Crew after 15 years with the company, following hot on the heels of the former CEO who departed two months ago. 

Drexler joined J Crew as chairman and chief executive in 2003, founding the Madewell brand three years later. Under his leadership, J Crew grew into a leading global fashion brand. He retired from the CEO role in July 2017 and subsequently founded Drexler Ventures to invest in and advise emerging brands, including Outdoor Voices and Warby Parker.

Prior to J Crew, Drexler spent 18 years at Gap Inc, where he was named president in 1987 and CEO in 1995. While at Gap, he founded Old Navy and launched Gap Kids and led the company during a period of significant growth. 

Now Drexler says he has decided to retire in order to devote his full time to the development of Drexler Ventures and other interests. He will continue to serve as a strategic advisor to the office of the CEO and the board.

"It's been a privilege to have had more than 15 years with J Crew Group both as CEO and chairman of the board," he says. "J Crew and Madewell have been long admired as iconic American brands, and I am thankful to have been a part of their evolution throughout the years. I look forward to working with the office of the CEO and the board as a strategic advisor to help support J Crew's long term success."

J Crew's board has elected Chad Leat to succeed Drexler as chairman, effective immediately. Leat has served as a director of J Crew since January 2017.

Drexler's retirement comes just two months after J Crew announced the sudden departure of former CEO, James Brett, after less than 18 months in the post. He led the group since June 2017, when he took over from Drexler.

The company has been going through a restructuring that appears to be starting to pay off, with second quarter results showing positive comparable sales growth in the J Crew brand for the first time in four years. It also reported a "continued stellar performance" at Madewell with 28% comparable sales growth – putting Madewell on a path to becoming a $1bn brand.