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.
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)
The @cfda has shifted the dates of #NYFW, with Men’s showing on February 5 through February 7, and Women’s will directly follow, running from February 8 through 14. The preliminary schedule will be released on the CFDA’s web site in the next few days, but Mark Beckham, VP of marketing for the CFDA, revealed that @rafsimons will be back to close the men’s-specific part of the week with a show on February 7 #wwdfashion (📷: Kelly Taub)
@ferragamo is introducing a new space dedicated to the development of women’s and men’s leather good samples. The laboratory, which is created eco-friendly materials and designed to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes, will allow the company to expand its accessories offering through traditional artisanal approaches. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
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“There is no formula. There is no guideline. I can watch Ted Talks all day, but there is no one who can advise me on exactly what it is I should be doing,” said @ronniefieg, CEO of @kith, in an interview with WWD’s @ariahughes at the brand’s new SoHo office in Manhattan. Head to WWD.com to see how Fieg went from hanging out in shoe stockrooms at 13 to building his own business. #wwdfashion (📷: @weston.wells)
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion