Earnest Sewn co-founders Scott Morrison and Eleanor Ylvisaker exited the company on Tuesday. Morrison was creative director and Ylvisaker was public relations director, and the duo were the public faces of the denim maker they launched in 2004, along with Lori Jacobs, who left the company as head of sales in March of last year.
“In a very amiable way, there was a difference of opinion on the direction of the company,” said Michael Press, president of Earnest Sewn. “Scott and Eleanor did an outstanding job creating an iconic brand and an ideology within the company, but taking that concept and the brand to the next level is something the company’s been struggling with for a long time.”
Earnest Sewn’s founding trio, along with early investor Patrick Assaraf, sold a controlling stake in the company in January 2008 to an investment group lead by Brian Cytrynbaum, a Montreal-based entrepreneur who owns T-shirt maker Majestic Mills. The deal injected new capital, but as part of the agreement Morrison gave up his president title and responsibilities to focus on the creative aspects of the brand. Cytrynbaum installed Press, a veteran of AG Adriano Goldschmied and Paige Premium Denim, as president.
Morrison and Ylvisaker are retaining their minority stakes in Earnest Sewn — as do Jacobs and Assaraf — and declined to comment about their departures.
“I think they’ve lost the heart and soul of the brand,” said Sam Ben-Avraham, president of Project Global Tradeshows and owner of the Atrium boutiques in New York and Miami, both of which carry Earnest Sewn. However, he plans to continue stocking Earnest Sewn in his stores.
Morrison, Ylvisaker and Jacobs launched Earnest Sewn five years ago after working together at Paper Denim & Cloth. The brand gained quick traction with an aesthetic focused on historical denim references and authentic Americana. Some of Morrison’s duties as creative director will now be assumed by Ben Smith, who has been at the company for two years and will be appointed design director. Other duties will be assumed by Melissa Freeman, the company’s director of merchandising.
Earnest Sewn is currently distributed in 530 specialty accounts, as well as Barneys New York, Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom doors. The company also operates three retail stores in New York’s Meatpacking District, Lower East Side and in L.A.’s Malibu Country Mart. A lease for a fourth store on Beverly Boulevard in L.A. was signed in January 2008 but build-out permits are still being sought.