By  on October 20, 2006

St. John said Thursday that former senior designer Maria D. Lopez is rejoining the $400 million apparel company as vice president of design.

Lopez is the second high-ranking executive to return to St. John in recent weeks. Bruce Fetter, the company's one-time co-president and chief operating officer, is resuming those duties starting Nov. 1. Lopez's appointment is effective immediately.

Interim chief executive officer Philip Miller, who succeeded Richard Cohen in April at the Irvine, Calif., firm, is putting into place and promoting executives with an understanding of the 44-year-old company's product and customers as the search for a new ceo continues.

Lopez will report to Lowell Breving, St. John's chief merchant and head of the design studio. She began working for St. John as a designer in 1993 and rose to senior designer and second in command to then-creative director Tim Gardner until she left the company last May. Gardner departed two months later.

"We are delighted that Ms. Lopez has returned to St. John," Miller said in a statement. "Her great creativity and design sense, combined with her knowledge of our brand and loyal customers, enables her to make a tremendous contribution to our design group and the resultant product."

Cohen's tenure was marked by a radical change in the product, sliding sales and the departure of many employees.

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