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Evisu Taps Morrison as CEO

Two months after exiting Earnest Sewn, Scott Morrison is back in the denim game as the newly appointed global chief executive officer of Evisu.

Two months after exiting Earnest Sewn, Scott Morrison is back in the denim game as the newly appointed global chief executive officer of Evisu.

In his new role, Morrison will oversee the denim and sportswear maker in all markets except Japan, where the brand was founded and is organized under a separate company.

“This is a completely unique and different challenge for me, in that I’m taking on an established brand rather than launching something new,” said Morrison, who was a co-founder of Paper Denim & Cloth in 1999 and Earnest Sewn in 2004.

At Evisu, Morrison faces the task of energizing a company that was one of the earliest innovators in the premium denim field when it launched in 1991, but which has muddled its brand message over the years and failed to grow a business of any significant size in the U.S.

“I think the opportunity is to dial back to our iconic heritage, when it was really about the denim,” said Morrison. “The product has become too heavily branded and it’s sort of taken on a life of its own as a streetwear-identified label. I’d like to see it become a little more contemporary, worldly, and perhaps, European.”

Evisu posted sales of about $30 million at wholesale outside of Japan, with less than $4 million of that in the U.S. There are 19 freestanding stores outside of Japan, with none in the U.S. Evisu signed a lease to open a SoHo flagship in 2006, but those plans never materialized.

With the appointment of Morrison, Evisu is moving its headquarters to New York from Hong Kong, where its parent company, Bestford Ltd., is based. Bestford and its chairman, Peter Caplowe, acquired the Evisu trademarks for all markets outside of Japan from Evisu founder Hidehiko Yamane in February 2006. The transaction was funded by New York-based hedge fund Indus Capital Partners, which owns a majority stake in Bestford.

Yamane still owns and operates the Evisu business within Japan, where it rings up about $50 million at retail, primarily through a network of 61 freestanding stores.

Indus Capital Partners had been seeking a ceo for Evisu’s international business for the past year, in order to assume those responsibilities from Caplowe and help ramp up growth. Andreas Kurz, the former ceo of Diesel USA and Seven For All Mankind and who now runs his own consulting firm, headed up the search and tapped Morrison for the job.

“We are looking to Scott to clarify and simplify the brand message globally and to improve the product offer,” said Caplowe. “Evisu historically developed somewhat haphazardly and, prior to Indus, in an undercapitalized way.”

With the bulk of Evisu sales in Europe, the design team is based in London, but Morrison is considering moving them to New York. He is aiming to have a small capsule collection of Evisu’s new direction on view at the Pitti Uomo and Bread & Butter trade shows this summer, with the full overhaul of the collections ready for fall 2010 retail.

Morrison and his partner, Eleanor Ylvisaker, departed Earnest Sewn in March, following disagreements with an investment group that acquired a majority stake in the company last year.