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Karin Gregersen Named President of Vince

She will oversee design, merchandising, product development, sales, marketing and all creative initiatives.

NEW YORK — Karin Gregersen has been appointed president of Vince, a division of Kellwood Co. The move is effective May 13.

This story first appeared in the March 18, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Most recently, Gregersen was managing director of Chloé/Richemont North America, where she was responsible for the strategic development of Chloé and See by Chloé in the U.S., Canada and South America. A 13-year veteran of Chloé, Gregersen played a key role in developing its global business, product strategy, distribution network and brand awareness. Earlier, she was vice president of sales and marketing for Chloé and before that, European sales manger for Givenchy Paris, where she managed the European wholesale and accessories accounts. She began her career at Wolford Australia.

At Vince, Gregersen will oversee design, merchandising, product development, sales, marketing and all creative initiatives. She reports to Jill Granoff, chief executive officer of Vince and Kellwood.

Granoff told WWD that not only was Gregersen highly recommended to her by many of their retail partners, “but she really has a vast knowledge of both the designer and contemporary markets, with nearly 20 years of executive leadership experience, both on the apparel side and on the accessories side.”

“We’ve talked about our goal to develop Vince into a global lifestyle brand, and Karin’s experience in both apparel and accessories is a tremendous asset to our team,” added Granoff. “What’s critical is she’s a real merchant leader. Having a very senior merchant as my partner, with a proven track record of global business development across categories, will be critical to Vince’s future success.”

This appointment follows the departures last month of Vince cofounders Rea Laccone, ceo, and Christopher LaPolice, president, who started the contemporary firm in 2002 and sold it to Kellwood in 2006. LaPolice, who was based in New York, ran sales and marketing, while Laccone, who was headquartered in Los Angeles, was responsible for design, merchandising and production. After they left, Granoff assumed additional responsibility for Vince, overseeing the strategic growth and direction of the brand. At the same time, the company named Doo-Ri Chung as creative director. Chung, who has relocated to Los Angeles, will report to Gregersen. Chung’s first collections will be for holiday 2013, hitting stores in September. The Danish-born Gregersen will be bicoastal, working from Vince’s New York showroom as well as the company’s offices in Los Angeles.

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“It’s a fabulous opportunity, and there’s the possibility to work with so much talent,” said Gregersen. She said she looks forward to working on product development, “driven by the strong artistic direction” of the core women’s ready-to-wear and men’s wear, as well as product extensions such as footwear, leather goods and fashion accessories.

“It’s about product and taking the business global. I’ve worked in building Chloé as a global brand. That’s one of the key strategic points to develop Vince as a worldwide leader in the contemporary world,” said Gregersen, who worked in Paris for Chloé for 10 years.

Vince, whose accounts include Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Harrods, Lane Crawford and Harvey Nichols, currently does around $250 million in volume.

Granoff explained how she and Gregersen will divvy up responsibilities.

“Karin will come in to be the president and be my partner in building the brand and building the business. She will oversee design, merchandising, product development, sales and marketing and all creative initiatives. I will continue to oversee retail, and I’ll handle international in partnership with Karin. I’ll have support areas like finance, HR, operations and legal, etc,” said Granoff.

One of the reasons that Granoff was hired last year by Sun Capital Partners, which owns Kellwood, was to accelerate the growth of Vince and maximize its potential as a global brand. There has been speculation that Sun wants to do an initial public offering for Vince. Kellwood is reportedly working with Goldman Sachs as it explores an IPO or a sale of Vince, although it couldn’t be learned if the investment bank has been officially hired. Granoff declined to comment on whether Vince was planning an IPO.

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If there were an IPO, financial sources believe it would be a partial spin-off of Vince, which would leave Kellwood holding a significant stake in that business, as well as its other businesses such as Rebecca Taylor, Sag Harbor, Zobha, David Meister and My Michelle. This would allow Vince to float a secondary public offering or two at a later date.

Granoff said Vince continues to perform very well at both retail and wholesale. The company is about to open its 20th freestanding store, in Westport, Conn., at the end of this month. The company is also redesigning its Web site, which should be ready in the fall. Vince doubled its Internet business last year, she said. Right now the brand is opening shops with Holt Renfrew and The Bay in Canada. “We’re focusing at least initially on the U.K., Canada and key markets in Asia,” said Granoff. She said there’s business in Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and China. “Once Karin comes on board, we’ll be refining our international growth plans,” said Granoff.

In other news, Jill Steinberg was promoted to senior vice president, wholesale, with responsibility for the women’s and men’s businesses. She joined as senior vice president of women’s sales last September. She reports to Gregersen.

The Karen Harvey Consulting Group handled the search.