St. John Knits Inc. has confirmed the retirement of chief executive officer Bruce Fetter, who caps more than 15 years at the Irvine, Calif.-based luxury knitwear house.Fetter has been succeeded by Eran Cohen, who quietly took the reins of the company at the start of this month.Cohen, who was unavailable Wednesday to discuss his plans for the business, would seem to be priming the company for big change in what the company characterized in a statement as a “bold evolution across product, marketing and retail at St. John.” Fetter could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.“St. John is an iconic American brand and a very important component in Fosun’s fashion portfolio,” said Fosun Fashion Group president Joann Cheng. “Eran has invaluable experience in marketing and consumer experience, with exceptional management skills. We believe he can unlock the potential of St. John, driving acceleration and growth via a strategic focus on the demands of current and new clients. Eran comes to St. John with a proven track record of success building and engaging teams and in driving global growth.”Fosun in 2013 acquired a minority stake — now a controlling interest — in the business following its investment in the firm and then installed Bernd Beetz on the St. John board. Beetz concurrently served as interim ceo before Geoffroy van Raemdonck was appointed to the top spot. Fetter rejoined the company in 2015, originally as president and chief operating officer before adding ceo duties.Under Fetter’s most recent stint, he oversaw the reintroduction of the St. John Sport line as one attempt at keeping the brand relevant in the face of consumer tastes that continue to shift. The company in the fall said it would shutter its South Coast Plaza boutique, ending more than two decades at the Costa Mesa shopping center, in favor of Fashion Island in Newport Beach to test a new store format. Fetter also sought to eliminate redundancies at the production level with layoffs last year of some sewers, cutters and knitting machine operators, among other positions, as some of the work shifted to the company’s Mexico facility in addition to Asia and Los Angeles area contractors.Cohen most recently served as PetSmart Inc.’s executive vice president of customer experience. He’s also held roles at New York & Company Inc. as chief marketing officer and executive vice president, as well as Payless ShoeSource, where he was senior vice president and chief marketing officer.The executive takes over a business with a workforce of more than 1,500 and a fleet of 29 stores.“I am thrilled by the opportunity to lead St. John, a legendary American brand,” Cohen said in a statement. “I envision a bold evolution, building off the brand’s iconic heritage in knitwear, bringing innovation in design and product, providing dynamic experiences at retail, wholesale and online and delivering provocative and compelling content that speaks to the brand’s current loyalists, while attracting new customer segments.”Cohen’s appointment follows the hiring of Laura Vazquez late last year as executive vice president and chief merchant and, more recently, Tom Jarrold as senior vice president of marketing, branding and communications.
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