Karen Castellano Tapped for T.R. Designs Post

She succeeds Barry Miguel, who left in April to join Seven For All Mankind as president.

NEW YORK — Tracy Reese on Monday named Karen Castellano as chief executive officer of T.R. Designs, the designer’s umbrella company for her three brands.

This story first appeared in the January 10, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Castellano previously was vice president of wholesale for men’s wear and children’s wear at Burberry. She succeeds Barry Miguel, who left in April to join Seven For All Mankind as president. In addition to Reese’s namesake label, the company produces Plenty by Tracy Reese and Frock by Tracy Reese.

The company’s annual sales are $40 million at retail.

“This is going to be a real shot in the arm,” Reese said of Castellano. “We always felt like we weren’t capitalizing on our [brands] and weren’t making the most of our products. We’ve been through a lot of transitions. We’ve upgraded our production tremendously. We went through a rough ride. We had to totally change our network of suppliers.”

“This is an amazing opportunity to take a beautiful brand, this gem of a company, and expand the product categories and distribution,” Castellano said, adding that Reese is planning more offerings in accessories and footwear for her namesake brand and for Plenty.

“We’re expanding into handbags again,” Reese said. “We’re going to launch Plenty Home without the licensing situation. The whole licensing game is very tricky.”

Reese eventually wants to open unique retail concepts for each of her brands so they have their own separate environments. She currently operates only two stores, in New York and Tokyo. “It’s something we’re looking into down the road,” she said. “The idea of having stores in different cities is kind of daunting. We would need to have a whole retail division.”

While she’s been approached by people interested in acquiring or investing in her brand, she said, “We like controlling our own destiny.

“We’re looking for more international distribution deals,” said Reese, who unveiled a 500-square-foot store in Tokyo in February and is working on finding a partner in China.

Castellano has been charged with upgrading the e-commerce site. “E-commerce is a huge issue,” said Reese. “We have to make it more modern, more fun and more interactive.”

“I want to catapult the business,” Castellano said. “Tracy built her brand independently without money from corporations. She deserves more for all her efforts and all her talent.”