By  on December 9, 2008

Josh Sparks, founder and chief executive officer of New York-based Rockwood Management Group, is closing that business and his two fashion brands, Imitation of Christ and Imitation.

Sparks, who opened Rockwood last year to consult in the contemporary and young designer markets, has joined HL Group as vice president. He will lead a new corporate advisory division to support HL Group clients with business solutions and brand management services.

After five seasons of producing the Imitation contemporary brand, Sparks decided to close the business about three weeks ago. The last shipment of product hit stores, including Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, for the fall. At its peak, the Imitation brand sold in about 70 specialty stores. Sparks had planned to bring back the Imitation of Christ brand, which he acquired from Tara Subkoff this year. However, he said with the troubled current economic climate, he decided to focus on what he does best — consulting.

“The increased cash-flow needs of the brand in light of the downturn, and the preference to focus my personal energy on my strategic management consultancy clients, meant the time and money required by IOC was simply not justifiable,” Sparks said. “It was a wonderful hobby, but I wanted to focus 100 percent of my time and energy on my business.”

Sparks said he has placed eight of his nine Rockwood employees at positions within the industry, and is working on finding a position for his ninth employee.

Sparks’ new role at HL Group allows him to continue the work he did with Rockwood. HL’s current clients include Diane von Furstenberg, David Yurman and Warner Bros., as well as some of his former Rockwood clients such as Trovata and Rosie Pope, who have already agreed to make the move with him.

“I am wildly impressed with Josh’s knowledge and, in this economy, the more services we can offer our clients, the better,” said HL Group partner Hamilton South.

Before opening his Rockwood business, Sparks, who has a law degree, was ceo of Sass & Bide in his native Australia, where he took the brand from a $5 million firm to a $30 million company in five years.

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