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Earnest Sewn Gets New Backer, Eyes Growth

Premium denim label Earnest Sewn is setting its sights on expansion after securing a new financial backer and putting together a management team.

NEW YORK — Premium denim label Earnest Sewn is setting its sights on expansion after securing a new financial backer and putting together a management team.

This story first appeared in the February 1, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

An investment group led by Brian Cytrynbaum, owner of Majestic Mills, has made a “significant equity investment” in the brand and is looking to grow the wholesale business, expand product offerings and open signature stores at home and abroad. In 2007, Cytrynbaum’s investment group acquired a stake in Link Theory Holdings Co., owner of the Theory, Helmut Lang and Rosner labels.

Michael Press took over as president last week from founder and designer Scott Morrison. Press is a denim-industry veteran who was most recently vice president of sales at Paige Premium Denim. He began his career in 1987 at Diesel and has worked with brands such as Big Star and AG Adriano Goldschmied.

Albert Sayegh has joined Earnest as chief financial officer, overseeing the consolidation of all operations at the brand’s Meatpacking District headquarters here. Sayegh spent the last several years with a Montreal-based accounting firm and has a background in accounting and consulting with Canadian wholesale and retail companies. Melissa Freeman, most recently director of merchandising at Paige Premium Denim, has also joined the company and will serve in a similar capacity.

Morrison will continue to focus on design and will take on responsibility and oversight of the brand’s retail expansion.

“Scott Morrison has been a pretty creative force in the premium denim market,” said Press, referring to Morrison’s early success in building Paper Denim & Cloth before venturing out on his own to launch Earnest.

Press said Morrison’s pioneering spirit was not only evident in his design work but in his decision to be one of the first to set the company’s roots in the Meatpacking District, which has since become a mecca for designer boutiques.

Press said Morrison’s team had no lack of vision for the brand, but had trouble reaching its full potential without more investment and structured operations. Consequently, overhauling the company’s internal operations will be another area of focus and one that Press believes will yield almost immediate results.

Press would not give specific sales figures, but said the current Earnest business is “in the eight-figure area.” With the new management, fresh operations practices, a new in-stock program and more financial backing, Press believes Earnest will be among the top four or five women’s premium denim brands within 12 to 18 months.