NEW YORK — Billy Reid is celebrating his 20th anniversary this year with an aggressive new game plan.The designer has brought on a new investor, a new chief executive officer, new chief operating officer and is planning to bolster the team further. Adding experts in social media and e-commerce and hiring a women’s designer are also in the plans.“Now I have a boss,” the Alabama-based designer said with a laugh during his fall presentation at a SoHo event space Friday night.Last month, Mark Daley, a 22-year veteran of the DFS retail division of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton who has also worked for Ralph Lauren and Smythson, joined Billy Reid as ceo.He relocated from London to Reid’s headquarters in Florence, Ala., and plans to significantly expand the Billy Reid business.“I think there’s not a designer in the U.S. with his look, skills, culture and history,” Daley said. “All the pieces of the puzzle are there, it’s now our job to execute.”With funding from a local Alabama businessman who “believes in Billy,” Daley said he will work behind the scenes to create the infrastructure necessary to build Billy Reid into the next great American designer.“He designs amazing product, but we need to refocus the business and let Billy be Billy,” he said. “We have the investment now to build a team.”Daley said Reid has long had help in the men’s design area and the company is seeking to add a women’s designer as well. It is also building a social media team and will seek to further bolster its e-commerce. The entire operation will be based in Florence.“We’re taking a methodical but sensitive approach to building this business,” he said.Another addition to the team is John Paul Rowan, who is the chief operating officer. Rowan had formerly been with Savannah College of Art and Design as vice president for strategy and innovation.“I’ve been a fan of the brand since 2004 — I have a lot of Billy in my closet,” he said. “We became friends and he reached out to me when he was thinking of going in a new direction and looking at who might be a good fit.”Rowan, who relocated to Florence and started Monday, said the goal is to “focus on being close to the customer and enhancing our digital presence.”He said the brand will be “pulling back” on some of its wholesale accounts and work more closely with retailers who “communicate [the brand message] properly.” He also will be exploring collaborations, he said.Billy Reid created the first William Reid collection in March 1998. But he shuttered the label after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. After regrouping, the designer relaunched his collection as Billy Reid in 2004. Today the business has sales of around $25 million, a wholesale business at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom and operates 13 Billy Reid stores. He’s also won four Council of Fashion Designers of America awards.
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