NEW YORK — Peter J. Rizzo exited his position as chairman, chief executive officer and a director of I.C. Isaacs & Co. on April 5 and will join Isaac Mizrahi as president and ceo of its men’s business at the end of the month.
The move confirms a Fashion Scoop in WWD last Wednesday.
Robert S. Stec, a director of I.C. Isaacs since 2002, has been appointed interim ceo of the company, which markets the Paris-based Marithé & François Girbaud denim and sportswear brand in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands under license.
Rizzo’s hiring by Mizrahi brings the men’s wear veteran back into the luxury sector. His appointment in 2003 to the top job at I.C. Isaacs, which mostly wholesales to young men’s streetwear stores, raised some eyebrows, given his previous experience as president of Bergdorf Goodman, president of Polo Retail at Polo Ralph Lauren and nearly two decades climbing the ranks at Barneys New York.
“I’ve known Isaac for a number of years, and after discussing with him the men’s designer landscape, we think there is an enormous opportunity for him there,” said Rizzo, 54.
The fledgling Isaac Mizrahi men’s wear collection is sold only in Bergdorf Goodman Men and at NeimanMarcus.com. It was launched in fall 2006 as a luxury collection and counterpart to Mizrahi’s semi-couture women’s line.
There is no men’s counterpart to the cheap-chic Isaac Mizrahi for Target women’s label, and there are no plans at this point to create men’s wear for that tier of distribution. (However, some men’s gift items are planned for Target this holiday season.)
“I’m excited that Peter is coming aboard. I know that as head of our men’s wear company, he’ll make a huge success of it,” said Mizrahi. “His confidence and expertise are irresistible, and I’m looking forward to working together for years to come.”
Rizzo and Mizrahi will work to expand the designer men’s wear line into a larger network of upscale retailers, according to Marisa Gardini, ceo of Isaac Mizrahi.
While Rizzo enjoys a solid reputation in the designer world, his tenure at I.C. Isaacs ended on a financial down note and he exited prior to the scheduled 2008 end date in his contract. In 2006, the company’s net income declined to $2.6 million from $6.4 million the previous year. Net sales in 2006 fell 1.3 percent, to $82.2 million. Earlier this year, Rizzo noted that the fourth quarter of last year was difficult, particularly for the independent specialty accounts — 80 percent of I.C. Isaacs’ business — due to an overall downturn in the urban market. He added that the company expected the softness to carry over into the first quarter of this year.
Wall Street has reacted harshly to the company’s financial performance; the stock fell from more than $6 in November to less than a dollar last week. Rizzo responded last week by noting, “When I joined the company, it had six prior years of losses, in the aggregate of about $40 million. The next three years under me were the most successful in its history, with total profits of [$15.2 million].”
Stec, the new interim ceo of I.C. Isaacs, is also chairman and ceo of Prestige Brands of North Carolina, a marketer of home furnishings, and ceo and founder of Brand Force One LLC, a marketing consulting company.
“We believe the company is undervalued and we are working every day to make it worth more,” said Stec, who declined to indicate whether the board was seeking a new ceo or would name him to the permanent post. “It’s been a tough market and it’s our responsibility to overcome this tough market. We’re committed to diversifying the business via a license for, or acquisition of, another brand.”