By  on April 25, 2005

NEW YORK — Andrew Rosen, Theory’s chairman, just started consulting celebrity nutritionist Oz Garcia, and a few meetings with him have already affected his whole outlook on life.

“I have to eat young to think young,” said Rosen, admiring a colorful fruit platter in his Grace Building office.

But these days, it’s not just food that Rosen relies on for a fresh vision. In March, the charismatic executive tapped Istvan Francer as women’s design director, replacing Jarlath Mellett, who had left Theory to focus on his retail venture Jarlathdan in Amagansett, N.Y.

Francer’s hire is an indicator of Rosen’s plans to evolve Theory into its next phase and give it more of a designer touch. Francer is well-known in fashion circles, having worked at Donna Karan Collection for 13 years before joining Maska in 2000. In 2002, he moved to Cerruti for a one-year design stint and even had his own designer sportswear collection before returning to Donna Karan International to consult on DKNY last year.

“Maybe I can make my mark and bring a designer point of view to this line,” Francer, a native of the former Yugoslavia, said. “That is challenging, and that’s why I decided to take this job.”

Theory was started by Rosen and Elie Tahari in 1997. In 2003, the duo sold large stakes in the brand to two Japanese companies — Link International, Theory’s Japanese licensee founded by Ricky Sasaki, and Fast Retailing Co. Ltd. Tahari sold his entire stake, while Rosen held onto 11 percent. Sources estimate Theory’s global combined retail and wholesale volume will exceed $400 million this year.

Explaining his decision to pick someone from the designer arena, Rosen said he anticipates the contemporary category to evolve and compete more directly with designer sportswear in the near future.

“The opportunities of the contemporary segment of the retail business are enormous,” he said. “You find there is a high design aesthetic, a high sense of fashion here and tremendous quality, and the customer demands it.”

Theory has 15 stores in the U.S., with plans to open at least 15 more within two years. It also wholesales the collection to such department and specialty stores as Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Belk, Marshall Field’s and Nordstrom.

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