By  on April 17, 2009

Robert Skinner has landed a new gig.

The former chairman and chief executive officer of Kellwood Co. has been named ceo of Smart Apparel (U.S.) Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Smart Apparel Group Ltd. It’s a new position.

Skinner will be based in New York and report to Jesse Zee, managing director of Smart Apparel Group in Hong Kong.

“My background and one of my great passions in business is men’s wear,” Skinner told WWD on Friday. “I cut my teeth in men’s, so in a way, this is a return to my roots.”

Smart Apparel, a division of the Youngor Group Ltd., is a manufacturer of branded and private label men’s furnishings, tailored clothing and sportswear. It produces dress shirts under license for Nautica, Claiborne and Perry Ellis and tailored clothing under the Nautica and Perry Ellis labels. Its manufacturing arm, Smart Shirts, has 13 manufacturing facilities located in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Skinner said he competed against Smart Apparel when he was at Oxford Industries, “and we owned it when I was with Kellwood, so I know the team.”

Skinner spent 24 years with Oxford Industries, where he rose to president of the Oxford Shirt Group and corporate vice president. He joined Kellwood in 2000 as president of its men’s division. He was named group ceo in 2005. Kellwood owned Smart Apparel from 1982 until it was sold to Youngor in January 2008.

Skinner said the sale to Youngor resulted in a stronger Smart Apparel since the company can now boast a “vertical platform,” which includes the production of its own fabric. “It makes for a much stronger competitor,” he said.

Although he said it is too early to discuss goals for his new position, Skinner noted the team from Hong Kong visited him in New York last week. “I am enthusiastic about the expansion plans [Youngor has] formulated for Smart Apparel, and I believe in the company’s people, abilities, and resources.”

Skinner left Kellwood last July, five months after the St. Louis-based apparel firm was acquired by Sun Capital Partners Inc. He then joined Lacoste’s U.S. licensee, Devanlay U.S. Inc., as ceo, but resigned after only two months on the job, citing “differences with the board.”

Youngor, which is publicly traded on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, is a manufacturer and retailer, property developer and investor. It also owns one of China’s largest producers of high-quality, yarn-dyed woven fabrics.

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