NEW YORK — Nautica named Denise Seegal as president and chief executive officer, to oversee a master plan principally involving strengthening the men’s wear portion of the business and growing the European distribution.

Among other possible avenues are reentering into retail stores and developing women’s sportswear business, but those strategies, if enacted at all, would be further in the future.

The announcement Friday confirmed a WWD report about Seegal’s career move.

Seegal, previously ceo and president of JLo by Jennifer Lopez licensee, Sweetface Fashion Co., will join Nautica, a $550 million brand owned by VF Corp., in mid-October. She succeeds Nautica founder, David Chu, who is leaving to pursue other interests, the company said.

“We have developed a clear strategy of where to take the brand. It’s a three-year, master plan,” said Eric Wiseman, vice president and chairman of VF’s outdoor and sportswear coalitions. “So, with that done, it made sense to bring in a leader who could see the plan through,” he said, noting that Chu’s contract was set to expire at the end of next year and that, since VF acquired Nautica in August 2003, “we knew all along there would be a transition.”

Seegal will report to Wiseman.

Describing the Nautica strategy, Wiseman said, “We are very focused on getting the men’s wear right, and getting it right in more geography. We have energized our organization around this. We need to have a healthy men’s sportswear business. The products were not connecting with people for a while” because it sent out mixed fashion messages, at times becoming too contemporary, rugged or oriented to urban work environments. But the product has been improving, he claimed, and the company has confidently boosted advertising this year by 60 percent to promote it. He said it’s more geared to meet the lifestyle of someone “active, with balance in their life.”

As far as growing the business, “geographic expansion opportunities are a big priority for us,” Wiseman said, noting that Nautica has licenses in Greece, Italy and Spain, but will begin to distribute in other European countries in 2005 to a small degree, and in 2006, to a much bigger degree. There are also a few licensed freestanding stores in southern Europe, but no Nautica-owned retail presence. VF has substantial infrastructure for jeans and outdoor apparel in Europe.

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