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Susan Sokol Named J.Mendel President

Sokol, the former president of apparel at Vera Wang, has been tapped as J.Mendel?s president and chief operating officer.

NEW YORK — Susan Sokol has a new home at J.Mendel.

This story first appeared in the October 27, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The former president of apparel at Vera Wang has been tapped as J.Mendel’s president and chief operating officer. In addition, Sokol has become a member of the company’s board.

This is an expanded role for the fashion house, which is rooted in five generations of furriers. The title of president was previously held by Edward Reich, who left the company in April.

Sokol met Gilles Mendel, chief executive officer and designer, several months ago through a mutual friend.

“I have great admiration for Gilles as a creative designer, and I have always been so impressed by the level of uniqueness and modernity he has brought and continues to bring to the fur classification,” Sokol said. “In terms of the ready-to-wear business, which launched about four years ago, we both see a solid potential for meaningful growth in this part of the business, expanding the current distribution on a global basis, as well as evolving and intensifying certain categories of the product.”

Sokol knows a thing or two about expanding a traditionally dress-driven business into a multitiered fashion brand. As president of Vera Wang apparel for the past four years, Sokol played a key role in transforming what was then mainly a bridal business into a fashion brand with designer rtw and sportswear. At Vera Wang, she also helped develop the contemporary Lavender label, which is sold in over 400 doors.

Prior to joining Vera Wang, Sokol was a consultant and acting president at Michael Kors. Before that, she owned her own consulting firm, SLS Consulting LLC, where she worked with the likes of Kors, Badgley Mischka, Judith Leiber and Wang. She was earlier chief executive officer of The Leiber Group (initially called Pegasus Apparel Group) and, before that, president of Donna Karan New York for three years. Sokol also spent 22 years at Calvin Klein, where she served 11 years as president of women’s Calvin Klein Collection.

Mendel noted, “I come from a fur background and I had been looking for someone who understands how to expand the apparel business and develop the ready-to-wear, which is something I have done for the past few years, and bring the company to the next level.”

J.Mendel is sold in stores such as Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Lane Crawford and Harrods, and has eight stores, including Madison Avenue in New York; Aspen, Colo.; Chicago; Moscow, and Paris. Sokol starts at J.Mendel today.

“Clearly, the ready-to-wear has a strong focus on evening right now, which will continue, and there are parts of that evening that can be expanded,” she said. “Gilles and I are aligned in terms of how to grow the business.”

Mendel added, “My goal has been to make J.Mendel a fashion and luxury brand, and having her expertise will allow me to go there.”