NEW YORK — Susan Sokol is said to have resigned as president and chief operating officer of J.Mendel, a post she has held since October 2008.
Sokol declined comment Monday, and a spokeswoman for J.Mendel would only say: “She’s very much in place as our president and excitedly working on the show.” J.Mendel will show its fall collection on Wednesday at 2 p.m.
Over the past four years, Sokol has steadily transformed J.Mendel from a fifth-generation French fur house into a global luxury label. During her tenure, the brand entered new markets; introduced several new categories, such as handbags, home design and fashion accessories, and broadened its reputation beyond luxurious fur coats. The company began offering a wider price range and more diversified collection, showing four times a year instead of twice, and refining its logo, image and packaging. Ready-to-wear now accounts for 60 percent of Mendel’s total wholesale business.
In an interview last year, Sokol said she was working on expanding the wholesale business, which accounted for 35 percent of volume, up from 15 percent three years ago. Its wholesale accounts include Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and the Joyce stores. In addition to its boutiques in New York, Paris and Moscow, the company has concept shops at Bergdorf’s and Hirshleifer’s in Manhasset, N.Y., as well as Harrods in London and Saks Jandel in Chevy Chase, Md.
The Gores Group, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm, took a significant stake in J.Mendel in 2010. This past December, Gores Group acquired contemporary brand Cynthia Vincent, which does in excess of $10 million in annual wholesale volume. In 2011, Gores Group acquired manufacturing company Big Strike, known for its mass-market and junior brands such as Heart Soul, Free to Love and Tracy Evans, as a platform to acquire more apparel brands in nonluxury categories. Cynthia Vincent was the first Big Strike investment.
Alec Gores, founder of The Gores Group, couldn’t be reached for comment Monday on Sokol’s departure, nor could Gilles Mendel, creative director.
Before joining Mendel, Sokol was president of Vera Wang for four years. She played a key role in reshaping what was then primarily a bridal business into a fashion brand with designer rtw and sportswear. At Wang, she also helped develop the contemporary Lavender label, which at one point was sold in more than 400 doors but has since folded. (Wang recently licensed the better-price dress business to The Levy Group.)
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
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