Ralph as Role Model: Sean John Appoints Ex-Polo Designer

Sean Combs has found a designer for his women’s collection in one of his favorite places: the design room of his fashion idol, Ralph Lauren.

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Max Wilson

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Jeffrey Tweedy

Photo By WWD Staff

NEW YORK — Sean “P. Diddy” Combs has found a designer for his long-awaited women’s collection in the design room of his fashion idol, Ralph Lauren.

Max Wilson, who resigned from Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. in February after an 11-year career working on the women’s designer collection, has been named vice president of design for the Sean John women’s line, which is planned to be prominently featured at Combs’ next runway show in February for fall 2005 retailing.

Women’s wear has been a major goal for Combs since the 1998 opening of his Sean John men’s collection, now a $450 million retail force with plans for its own network of stores, which will commence with a Fifth Avenue flagship here in September.

Wilson, 46, is known in the industry for his work at Ralph Lauren, where he was promoted to vice president in 1997 to succeed Maggie Norris when she left to launch her own collection. A native of Detroit, Wilson studied at Parsons School of Design and worked at several companies on Seventh Avenue, including on Calvin Klein’s women’s collection, prior to joining Lauren in 1993 as an associate designer of collection.

Jeffrey Tweedy, Sean John’s executive vice president, who was also once an employee of Lauren’s women’s collection business, said Wilson will direct the women’s design team at Sean John and that the company is looking to build a group of industry heavyweights to work on the launch. Wilson will report to Combs, president and chief executive officer, and to a senior vice president of women’s wear when that position is filled.

“You can’t make mistakes in the women’s business,” Tweedy said. “It’s three times as big as the men’s business, so we want to build the right team.”

Citing the debut of the men’s collection at retail in spring 1999, when Sean John surpassed its projections to reach $32 million in sales, Tweedy said the women’s line could generate $45 million to $60 million if the right distribution is in place.

The full collection will be presented at Combs’ fall 2005 presentation in February, representing at least 40 percent of the show. Combs has previously shown a handful of women’s looks as a teaser and to better define the brand identity of Sean John.
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