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NEW YORK — Elie Tahari is beefing up his design team.
In a move that may just become fashion’s equivalent of Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich — the two former New York Yankees who made headlines for trading families — Tahari tapped Ingo Wilts as his new creative director of women’s and men’s design. Wilts was, until last week, senior vice president and creative director of Kenneth Cole Productions, which just hired former Tahari executive creative director Kobi Halperin as women’s sportswear creative director.
The hire comes at a time when Tahari is restructuring his company amid reports of layoffs to build, as he put it, “a brand new foundation.” He told WWD that before, “It was a one-story house and the business grew. Now, we are dividing it in a way where each product line has its own focus and its own team, instead of everybody doing everything.”
At Tahari, Wilts, a native of Germany, will oversee all design efforts for women and men, as well as T Tahari and licensee divisions. Wilts, whose first day was Monday, is also expected to help with the company’s e-commerce business.
Tahari, to whom Wilts will report, said the designer’s mandate is “to elevate the brand,” citing his extensive international fashion background — particularly in men’s wear, a budding category for Tahari — as the reason for the hire.
Before KCP, Wilts served as senior vice president and creative director at Hugo Boss and its Boss Black, Boss Selection and Boss Green divisions, designing women’s and men’s wear and accessories for nine years.
Asked what appealed to him about the Elie Tahari brand, Wilts cited the higher quality and range of product. “I look forward to working with Elie and helping him improve his business,” Wilts said. “We can build the team and elevate the whole brand.”
To that effect, Tahari also tapped Fred Tutino as director of women’s design. Prior to joining Tahari, he served in such roles as creative director of Roberto Torretta, design director for Zara women’s wear and creative director of Maska. Tutino reports to Tahari.
In addition, the company hired Gilles Blanchard as its design director of men’s wear. Blanchard previously was design director of men’s tailored clothing at Calvin Klein, and prior to that served as creative director at Falke, and vice president of design-production, men’s wear development at Marithé et François Girbaud. Blanchard reports to both Wilts and Tahari.
“With the additions of Gilles and Fred joining the Elie Tahari family, their combined talent and extensive experience in design makes them poised to continue our national and international expansion,” Tahari said.
As for the Wilts-Halperin swap, Tahari called it a “pure coincidence.” “Ingo resigned [from KCP] about six months ago, and I think Kobi just started there,” he said. “Kenneth is my friend and I wish him all the best, and so is Kobi. He is a good guy.”
If all this seems like an episode of “Wife Swap,” the reality television show on Lifetime, then so be it. “We got the better half,” Tahari said with a chuckle.