NEW YORK -- Claudia Thomas has resigned as chief executive officer of Perry Ellis International.Thomas joined the company in 1987 as executive vice president, overseeing the firm's growth with Robert McDonald, then president and ceo. She became president and ceo after McDonald's death in 1990. Thomas has seen the company through several transitions to a complete licensing and marketing firm for the Perry Ellis name, claiming an annual retail volume for the label of $750 million. In the process, the firm ended the Ellis designer women's collection and discontinued manufacturing the women's secondary collection, Portfolio, as it continues to seek a licensee."We've been through so many changes, and the company's grown dramatically," said Thomas. "I've done what I was asked to do, and I'd like to go on and do something else." Thomas plans to take the summer off and return to the industry after that. The company is searching for a new ceo. In the interim, that post will be handled by chairman Ira Wender. Wender said his primary concern in replacing Thomas, who will be a consultant for PEI, is to find "someone who's had an extensive merchandising background, who can help the positioning of Perry Ellis and Perry Ellis products."

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