By  on December 7, 2005

NEW YORK — Swiss Army Brands is getting serious about women's wear, and has hired Johanne Shepley Siff, formerly of Prada USA Corp., as the new president of its Victorinox global apparel and retail divisions.

Siff will join the company Jan. 2 from Prada USA, where she is currently senior vice president of sales and marketing. Siff will replace David McTague, who left to pursue other interests in September. She will report to Sue Rechner, president and chief executive officer.

Prior to Prada, Siff worked as Comme des Garçons' general manager, and was also once the director of worldwide public relations and communications at Estée Lauder Cos.' Prescriptives brand.

Rechner said hiring someone with a strong designer apparel background was "a deliberate decision. We have a young men's apparel business and are looking to [Siff] to lead our efforts to establish our brand as a leading accessible luxury brand globally, as well as a women's apparel business in the U.S. in 2006."

Based in the company's New York office at 285 West Broadway, Siff will be in charge of the the global apparel business, including overseeing areas such as design, production and sales. One of Siff's key mandates will be to manage the women's launch. The company already has a women's collection in Canada and Japan.

Siff will work closely with Swiss Army's brand creative director, Christopher Cox, and help develop the brand's international expansion strategy, including freestanding retail as well as licensing relationships.

Swiss Army anticipates growing its U.S. business at both the wholesale and retail levels. Its men's apparel is currently sold in upscale department and specialty stores here as well as its SoHo flagship. The company has an estimated sales volume of $150 million, excluding licenses.

"It's a great opportunity to build the business while upholding and respecting the global brand development and credibility," Siff said. "I am inspired by the enormous potential to develop apparel collections for men and women and related product categories that will stand for the credibility of the brand on a global level."

The women's line will be presented to retailers in February. "It presents a big opportunity for us," said Rechner, who didn't provide sales projections. "We have an initiative to build up the women's side of business for the brand that would cut across all categories. [Siff] is a significant component of that, and she has an extensive background in women's as well as luxury."

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