Pressure Cooker

Tough times apparently call for drastic measures. Faced with more than a year of disappointing earnings reports, three of the biggest U.S. public apparel conglomerates are redefining the role of the wholesaler.

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WWD Year In Fashion issue 2007/12/11
McComb is charging new executives with turning the brand around, including Tim Gunn, formerly Parsons The New School for Design's chair of the department of fashion design, who took over the new post of chief creative officer at the company in March. Gunn, also a "Project Runway" veteran, is working closely with Dave McTague, formerly president of Nike Inc.'s successful Converse Apparel, who became executive vice president of partnered brands in September.

The management roster at the company has gotten a full makeover this year — from group presidents to sourcing executives. Claiborne president Trudy Sullivan, who had been the only internal candidate under consideration for McComb's job, left in July to become ceo of Talbots Inc. McComb eliminated the group president position, pushing out Claiborne veterans including Karen Murray and Susan Davidson, while promoting Jill Granoff to executive vice president of direct brands and Mark Walsh to president of "portfolio brands," including the brands under review. Kate Spade's founders, Kate and Andy Spade, departed, and Deborah Lloyd, Banana Republic's executive vice president of product design and development, started this fall as co-president and creative director for the brand. A search for Lloyd's co-president on the business side is still under way.

The changes have left analysts and consultants musing whether McComb's plan will work. All agree that time — and execution — will tell.

Jones' Wild Ride

After a tumultuous reign, Peter Boneparth left Jones Apparel Group this summer, as did his legacy, Barneys New York.

Wesley R. Card, a 17-year Jones veteran, took over as chief executive officer in July after Boneparth's departure. Unlike Boneparth, Card said he has no intention of putting the $4.74 billion vendor up for sale — a move some had speculated could be likely with a financial executive in the ceo slot — and that he still believes in the wholesale model. While Jones is liquidating some of its moderate businesses after being unable to find buyers for the 9 & Co., Norton McNaughton, Rena Rowan, Duckhead and Pappagallo brands, Card said he is dedicated to Nine West, Jones New York and Anne Klein — though, after a short run under Isabel Toledo, Anne Klein's designer collection is shuttering.
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