By  on September 10, 2007

Stephen L. Ruzow will step down as president of Kellwood Co.'s Calvin Klein women's sportswear division, effective Sept. 21.

The move follows Kellwood's announcement Thursday about the restructuring of its women's division and the exit of Paul Robb, chief executive officer of Kellwood's Lifestyle Design Group, both of which raised speculation Ruzow was under pressure in his position.

Ruzow said it was his decision to depart, and that he was pleased with where Kellwood's better and bridge Calvin Klein women's sportswear lines were.

"This was always the plan, when they asked me two years ago to go to Calvin and fix it — we knew it wouldn't be forever," Ruzow said. "We have been performing at retail very much in line with our peers; the whole better segment is struggling."

After joining Kellwood in October 2001 as president of Kellwood Womenswear, Ruzow was appointed corporate vice president in March 2003 and promoted to executive vice president the following December, in addition to his post as president of Kellwood Womenswear. In September 2004, he was moved to the Calvin Klein division, which had trouble as a licensee, according to industry sources.

"We appreciate Steve's contributions to our women's businesses over the past six years," Robert C. Skinner Jr., Kellwood's chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "This was a groundbreaking period for the company as we added several well-known national women's brands to our portfolio. Steve was instrumental in bringing those relationships to Kellwood.

"Two years ago, we asked Steve to take the reins at our Calvin Klein division in order to refocus the women's better sportswear, and to develop and launch the ck Calvin Klein women's bridge business, which will be in stores for spring 2008," Skinner continued. "Now that better sportswear is repositioned with a much stronger product presentation and bridge is ready to launch, Steve has expressed an interest in retiring from Kellwood."

Before joining Kellwood, Ruzow served as president at The Leiber Group (formerly Pegasus Apparel Group) from March 2000 to May 2001. Ruzow was instrumental in Pegasus' goal of forming an American luxury conglomerate, but the firm endured numerous stumbles.Before Pegasus, he spent a year overseeing Calvin Klein underwear and accessories at Warnaco, where he had worked as president and ceo of its activewear and women's apparel divisions in the early Eighties.

From March through May 1998, he was ceo of Kate Spade, after serving as president and chief operating officer of Donna Karan International from 1989 to 1997.

"I had been concerned with my background being only designer," Ruzow said. "What I loved about Kellwood is I learned a whole new segment of the market. Now I have done everything from Donna Karan Collection to Sag Harbor."

Ruzow said he would start looking for his next post immediately after he finished the spring market.

"I'm not retiring forever — I'm retiring from Kellwood," said Ruzow. "The most exciting area right now is the contemporary area, and I love the designer part of the business."

A search is under way for his successor at Kellwood.

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