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Gordon Thompson, the creative force behind Cole Haan, is stepping down as creative director and executive vice president.
In an internal announcement, chief executive officer Jim Seuss said Thompson “made a personal decision to step back from Cole Haan in his full-time role to return to California. He will continue to work with me and our teams on a consulting basis, ensuring a strong and successful business and brand.”
Thompson, who was not available for comment, has been preparing to create a softer, more luxurious Cole Haan by offering items such as sheared mink coats and a line of luxury men’s shoes. For fall, Thompson and his team revived a woven leather technique employed in earlier years by the 79-year-old company for a collection of higher-priced women’s shoes.
The Cole Haan team has also been working on revamping stores to complement its updated aesthetic, especially in outerwear, which is a burgeoning category for the brand.
No successor to Thompson was named. The company said it would make the transition to a new reporting structure after Thompson begins consulting in July from Los Angeles. He will maintain his full-time position through the end of June.
Thompson joined the Yarmouth, Maine, accessories and outerwear firm in 1999 after working at Nike, Cole Haan’s parent, as corporate vice president and global creative director.
Seuss joined the firm in February 2006, replacing Matt Rubel, who left to join Payless ShoeSource as ceo.
Thompson, who has a background in architecture, also had a mission to incorporate the technologies of Nike into dress shoes. Last fall, Cole Haan introduced the Dress Air collection, a line of high heels with high-tech cushions in the sole.
“We’re taking two worlds that don’t traditionally go together — athletics and fashion — and we’re ramping them together,” Thompson said when the line was launched.
Oprah Winfrey lauded the collection on her television show last November.
This story first appeared in the May 1, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.