NEW YORK — St. John on Thursday named George Sharp as executive vice president of design, a new post. The appointment came a day after Sharp resigned as vice president of design at Ellen Tracy.
In his new role, Sharp reports to Glenn McMahon, chief executive officer. He will work with the existing design team and oversee St. John's ready-to-wear and nonapparel categories, which consist of jewelry, handbags, footwear, eyewear and fragrance. Sharp also will work with design consultants Marie and Kelly Gray, who rejoined the brand in 2006.
Sharp, who begins Feb. 18, has been with Ellen Tracy since April 2005. Earlier, he was head of collections for Escada and designer for Rena Lange. He will divide his time between St. John's headquarters in Irvine, Calif., and the company's New York offices.
"He has grown up knowing this customer through Rena Lange and Escada and he understands the international market very well," said McMahon. He had previously worked with Sharp when McMahon was at Ellen Tracy. "I hired him away from Escada to join Ellen Tracy. Being here for a while, I thought we could use someone of his talent."
McMahon said the Grays will continue in their consulting roles, but "George will be the full-time designer." He said no other changes are planned for St. John's design team, which also includes Maria Lopez, Tiffany Pepys-Hoey and Greg Miller, who are all vice presidents of design and will report to Sharp.
Claiborne officials said Thursday that they are not yet sure how Sharp's departure will affect the brand's sale. They said the bridge brand would either be sold or kept — not closed. Claiborne is down to one remaining bidder for Ellen Tracy, a consortium of buyers led by Windsong Brands and the Radius Group, and including other investors such as American Capital Strategies Ltd., but a tough due diligence is drawing out the process, according to sources.
"I've never been on a ride like this," Claiborne ceo William L. McComb said Thursday. "The external market has slowed the process down."
If they do not like what the deal looks like, Claiborne is committed to keeping Ellen Tracy, improving sourcing and manufacturing and replacing its head designer. McComb said the search for a new big-name designer started Wednesday. He may appoint a designer before the fate of the brand is decided.Sharp was hired from Escada in 2005 to turn Ellen Tracy around after it alienated its core customer by skewing too young in the absence of Linda Allard, who retired in 2003. "George found that Ellen Tracy woman, and we have that template now," said Roberta S. Karp, senior vice president of business development, legal and corporate affairs at Claiborne.
Sharp will stay on for a few weeks while holiday 2008 is designed, McComb said.
Ellen Tracy has slid in volume from $171 million when Claiborne acquired it in 2002 to what sources estimate is less than $75 million today. Changes in the bridge market, combined with product issues and hurt sales, and on top of recent economic woes, retailers have been conservatively buying all of Claiborne's brands that are on review, uncertain of their fates and whether they will be sold down channel, like Dana Buchman was on Thursday to Kohl's.
Originally, Claiborne had tried to sell Ellen Tracy with Buchman together "as a bridge complex because of certain efficiencies," but Claiborne closed the bidding for Buchman at the end of the year when the Kohl's deal was getting close. McComb said the ongoing licensing of the brand — particularly at the moderate channel, where the volume would be greater — would be far more profitable than selling it. Dana Buchman herself will stay on as "a brand ambassador," who makes personal appearances, Karp said.
Claiborne closed its Dana Buchman division, which had approximately 60 employees Wednesday, though it will still do the design — but not production — for the brand. With Buchman's design staff gone, Claiborne still must decide who will design the line going forward.
McComb called morale at the company "lumpy" — "but it's lumpy in the whole industry."
"It's an emotional roller coaster," he said. "We announce Isaac [Mizrahi] joining us one day, and the closure of Dana the next."
Claiborne said Tuesday that Mizrahi would be taking over design for the Liz Claiborne brand beginning in spring 2009 after his five-year contract with Target Corp. expires. On Thursday, the designer — with a polkadot scarf tied around his neck — walked with McComb around the balcony of the $4.99 billion vendor's executive suites on the 21st floor of 1441 Broadway here, waving through windows at Claiborne executives.
“I think what’s so interesting about the #MeToo movement and this whole new wave of feminism in general, is that women are finally seeing, ’Oh I can start my own company, oh I can lear to code, oh I can leave my nine-to-five job and do the thing I want to do,” said @brooklyndecker ahead of her @sxsw talk for @createcultivate. The former model took the stage to share wisdom about networking and female-driven entrepreneurship. #wwdeye #sxsw (📷: @jgreenery)
“I was making the guacamole when my scout saw me,” says model @stuckinteenage on being discovered just six months ago while working at @chipotlemexicangrill. Since then Williams has signed with @dnamodels, walked in her first show at @calvinklein and landed on the cover of @vogueitalia – a high point of any model’s career. To read @lisajlockwood’s full interview with the model on her experiences thus far, head to WWD.com – link in bio. (📷: George Chinsee)
“I love the idea of dialogue, period. It’s where I’ve always gotten my inspiration from: hearing other women speak, their journeys and their paths,” said @hereisgina, who delivered the keynote speech at the @sxsw conference for @createcultivate, the online platform and conference series for women. For her two panels, Rodriguez chose female empowering, female-led and female entrepreneurs to focus on. Head to WWD.com to read more about her thoughts on Time’s Up, growing up in a family of women and why we “need a girls’ club.” #wwdeye #sxsw (📷: @jgreenery)
Leading luxury brand are shaking things up to keep up with streetwear. Case in point: the arrival of @mrkimjones as artistic director of @diorhomme. Jones, who succeeds @Kris_Van_Assche, is seen as one of the handful of designers who can actually straddle the luxury and streetwear worlds — which could lead to even more changes at established brands. What could this mean for the rest of the menswear landscape? Head to WWD.com to find out what experts predict #wwdfashion (📷: @franckmura)
“It’s like buying groceries. You’re going to buy the best mango, the best mozzarella, the best things. You have to, or others are going to take it all,” said @gabrielahearst on why she uses only the finest fabrics. Last week, Hearst received her first @cfda nomination for Womenswear Designer of the Year, and earlier this month she opened a permanent showroom in Paris. To read @jessiredale’s interview with the designer and find out why this is shaping up to be a big year for her, head to WWD.com. #wwdfashion (📷: @francoisgoize)
“It’s an interesting thing, playing a younger version of your mother. It’s an interesting concept. I adore my mom and love her in every capacity, but it was just something that had never crossed my mind,” says @anniemstarke on playing a young Joan Castleman in “The Wife.” The same role will be played by her mother Glenn Close. Read more about her growing up in the film industry as the daughter of producer John H. Starke and Close and what she has planned for the future #wwdeye (📷: @nataliamantini)
@asics is launching a new streetwear sneaker inspired by its latest ambassador, @steveaoki. The Hyper-Kenzen x Aoki, which will launch at @footlocker stores exclusively tomorrow, is a slip-on style that incorporates the brand’s proprietary Gel technology through beads integrated into the midsole for comfort and endurance. Read the full story on WWD.com.