By  on July 9, 2014

After a year-long search, Tommy Bahama has found its new head of design.

The Seattle-based division of Oxford Industries Inc. named Bradley O’Brien to the newly created position of executive vice president of design and product development. She reports to Terry Pillow, chief executive officer of the Tommy Bahama Group, and will be responsible for all categories including men’s and women’s apparel, swimwear, accessories, footwear, home and all licensed products.

Pillow said that although the company has “very talented people” overseeing each of these areas, he believed it was “time to create a new position with a person who would oversee the whole thing.” He said O’Brien will provide a “filter” to ensure the company’s message is consistent among all categories. “We want to tell one story,” he said.

Pillow said he started the search process one year ago and interviewed more than 50 people for the position. “I was in no hurry,” he said. Tommy Bahama is “not a traditional or designer brand, but a lifestyle brand,” he said, and many customers have formed “an emotional connection with us. It’s not so easy to tell people what the brand is all about and you really have to buy into what we do.”

O’Brien has more than 20 years experience in the apparel industry in design, identifying consumer trends and developing labels. Most recently, she was vice president of women’s design and global trends for Sperry Top-Sider. She also spent 10 years at Ralph Lauren and has also held executive-level design positions at Lands’ End and Old Navy.

“She has a very diverse background and had the mix I was looking for,” Pillow said, pointing in particular to her experience in women’s wear, accessories and shoes, growing categories for the Tommy Bahama brand.

O’Brien added: “Everyone shares the dream of unwinding on a beach and Tommy Bahama is perfectly positioned to take you there through their product and stores and restaurants.”

In the first quarter ended May 3, Tommy Bahama’s overall sales rose 5 percent to $158.4 million, with comparable-store sales down 1 percent. Adjusted operating income was $20.3 million, compared with $21.4 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2013, a drop that the company attributed to increased selling, general and administrative expenses, a slight dip in gross margin and the comp-store sales decrease. At the end of the first quarter, Tommy Bahama operated 141 stores including 91 full-price stores, 14 restaurant-retail locations and 36 outlets.

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