Thom Browne has tapped Josh Sparks as president and chief executive officer, succeeding Tom Becker, who exited the company in April. The designer men’s wear firm has also completed the first stage of a recapitalization plan, selling a minority share to Japan-based Cross Company, a manufacturer and specialty retailer.
Sparks was previously a vice president at the corporate advisory business of HL Group, a New York-based communications and strategic planning agency. Among his clients was Thom Browne, for whom he helped finalize the deal with Cross Company. Sparks’ first day is July 16.
“Josh is overwhelmingly capable, and I was looking for someone who knew how to strategically take us to the next level,” said Browne, chairman and designer of the company he founded in 2003.
Sparks, 35, was ceo of Australia-based Sass & Bide from 2002 to 2006, helping to grow that business from $4 million in sales to $30 million. He then founded consulting firm Rockwood Management Group, which he merged into HL Group this past December.
Sparks’ agenda at Thom Browne includes lowering its entry-level price points, signing licenses in key categories and significantly expanding the retail distribution.
“The business has not evolved to where it can be, and there are opportunities it has not been able to take advantage of,” noted Sparks of Thom Browne, which has garnered praise — and criticism — for its directional aesthetic, which emphasizes crisp tailoring and lean proportions. Despite all the buzz, the company remains small, with the collection distributed in just 45 wholesale accounts, in addition to one freestanding store in New York’s West Village.
The investment by Cross Company helps stabilize the firm’s shaky finances. Terms of the deal were not divulged, but Sparks said it was a “multimillion dollar” investment for a “relatively small minority share.” Thom Browne continues to seek additional investors, with Cross Company having a call option to acquire a larger — but still a minority — stake in the company.
Tokyo-based Cross Company is both a high-end apparel manufacturer and operator of about 200 multibrand boutiques, which sell a mix of designer and contemporary labels.
To broaden the brand’s appeal at retail, Sparks is planning to introduce price points 20 to 30 percent lower than what’s now available in Thom Brown collections, where suits start at about $2,800. “We want to be competitive with the European designer brands, which tend to have more elasticity in their pricing, whereas we have been more niche,” explained Sparks, who emphasized even the lower-priced suits would be full-canvas and retain the brand’s luxury appeal.
Sparks would like to expand distribution from its current 45 stores to about 150 to 200 stores over the next three years.
Thom Browne is also close to inking a deal for its first license, which Sparks said could be announced by next week. “Thom Browne has built an incredibly respected and aspirational brand and there are many opportunities to leverage that in licensing. But we want to carefully manage those opportunities and not rush into anything,” he noted.
Apart from his own label, Thom Browne designs collections for Black Fleece by Brooks Brothers and Moncler Gamme Bleu.
There'll be no rest for those headed to Europe for men's, as Paris just closed the gap with Milan. According to a provisional calendar released by the Chambre Syndicale, Paris Men's Week will now open a day earlier on January 16. See new highlights on the official lineup on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
BREAKING: Jonathan Saunders is leaving @DVF. The designer has resigned from his position as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, the company said in a statement on Friday. At the time of his hire, von Furstenberg said Saunders’ arrival symbolized and facilitated her stepping back from the day-to-day duties that occupy the work of a full-time creative director. The British designer joined DVF in May 2016 and was in charge of all product categories. #wwdnews
For @versace_official’s spring ad campaign, the brand emphasized the archival prints from the spring tribute collection dedicated to the late Gianni Versace. Closing out the show were five of Gianni’s favorite models: Cindy, Naomi, Carla, Helena, and Claudia. Bowing on December 18, the new campaign is yet another tribute to supermodel-dom as the images by Steven Meisel are fronted by @iamnaomicampbell, @cturlington, @gisele and more. #wwdfashion
Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening has been waiting 20 years to play Gloria Graham in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," which will be released on December 29. The movie about Graham – a Hollywood star known for her controversial relationship with a younger Englishman named Peter Turner – is based off a memoir Turned wrote. "She felt vulnerable to him, because she loved him, she really did love him. And anyone that we really truly are in love with, we re vulnerable to in a very deep way," said Bening. Read our full interview with the modern icon of an actress on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @ninebagatelles; Styled by @cristinaehrlich)
The crisp white button down: a staple that can be dressed up or down and accessorized throughout the decades. Here, on a Art Basel-goer in 2017 on the left and on the iconic Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” in 1953 on the right. #tbt #wwdfashion (📷: Andrew Morales)
Known for her work with @victoriassecret, 25-year-old model @georgiafowler is raising her profile in Hollywood. Fowler stars in @vincecamuto’s holiday campaign, which launched in partnership with “Pitch Perfect 3.” “Almost every shoot with Vince Camuto, I’ve had to face a fear…It was definitely a challenge. I’m so grateful for it, though. I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, so that was the perfect chance,” Fowler said. Head to WWD.com to read about Fowler’s experience modeling, including at the #VSFashionShow, and her relationship with Nick Jonas. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
EXCLUSIVE: Huda Kattan just became the first beauty influencer to land a major beauty deal. Kattan's business, @hudabeauty, has received a minority investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. The brand, which industry sources say is on track to do $200 million in retail sales for 2017, will receive support on product, retail and geographic expansion through the deal. Get all the details on the deal and read @_a_collins' interview with Kattan on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Peruvian model @juanaburga_official – who is known for walking the runways of @rodarte, @viviennewestwood and @torybuch – is making the move to the big screen with drama “Los Últimos.” The film premiered in Argentina in November and arrives in the U.S. and Europe in 2018. On making the switch from modeling to acting, Burga told WWD: “It’s a completely different thing – a lot of people think it’s similar or try to connect things, especially like getting used to the camera or being looked at all the time or playing these different characrers, but film is a completely different story.” #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)