NEW YORK — Who is next in line for Nautica?Sources say a handful of high-profile, seasoned fashion executives have been in and out of the Nautica corporate suite here in recent weeks vying for a top post, probably president. Among them is Denise Seegal, president and chief executive officer of Sweetface Fashion Co., the holding company for the JLo by Jennifer Lopez clothing line.Robert J. Wichser, former president and ceo of JA Apparel Corp. and currently a free agent, also has interviewed at Nautica, a source said. Wichser was forced out of JA Apparel after a change in ownership, and once served as president and chief operating officer of GFT Men’s, GFT Women’s Imports, Joseph Abboud and Valentino.Peter Corritori, who has held jobs in the highest ranks at Florsheim Group, Calvin Klein Kids and Gant USA, also is reportedly a candidate. He left Calvin Klein Kids about a month ago and is available for hire. Legal entanglements, including contractual obligations for certain candidates, are stalling a decision, one retail source said.Other apparel executives have been contacted, including Jim Lewis, former Levi Strauss executive and one-time group president at Liz Claiborne. Nautica was purchased by VF Corp. last year, which removed Harvey Sanders and elevated David Chu, Nautica co-founder, to ceo. For months, Nautica has been on the prowl for a president. Chu’s contract expires at the end of 2005, and whoever is president would likely step up to ceo. Officials at Nautica and the rumored candidates could not be reached for comment.Nautica wants to launch women’s sportswear, which is Seegal’s strong suit, while the other candidates are more associated with men’s wear and other categories.Eric Wiseman, chairman of VF’s sportswear and intimate apparel coalition, said last year that Nautica women’s sportswear would bow in 2005 at the earliest. Wiseman, who has been playing a big role at Nautica and who is very involved in the interviewing process, is on vacation and could not be reached for comment.Prior to joining Sweetface, Seegal was president of Liz Claiborne Inc., president of the CK women’s and men’s divisions at Calvin Klein Inc. and was the founding president of DKNY. She was also with Ralph Lauren Womenswear, where for five years she was executive vice president in charge of five divisions. She began her career at Bloomingdale’s, where she rose to group merchandise manager in charge of designer sportswear.Since joining Sweetface in June 2002, Seegal has been on a tear, adding licenses and categories and transforming the label into a 360-degree brand.“Denise has been prancing in and out of the Nautica offices for the last couple of weeks,” said a source. “She’s a talented, well-liked executive in the industry and is a great representative for any fashion brand.” — David Moin

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