Nat Nast Names DeParis CEO

Men's sportswear firm Nat Nast taps former Escada executive, Lawrence C. DeParis.

Lawrence C. DeParis has been named as president and chief executive officer of The Nat Nast Co., a Connecticut-based men’s sportswear firm, effective Monday. The posts were formerly held by Patty Nast Canton, daughter of founder Nat Nast, who will now assume the role of creative director.

This story first appeared in the April 17, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The former president and ceo of Escada USA, DeParis will be charged with the development and growth of the family-owned business. Founded in 1946, the label was relaunched by Canton and her sister Barbara Nast Saletan in 2000 and is now carried in over 600 doors in the U.S. Saletan is executive vice president of sales.

“We were looking to fill this position about three years ago,” Canton told WWD in an interview Thursday. “We looked for about a year and never found the right person.” Instead, the company hired Richard Cohen, the former head of Zegna USA and now president and ceo of Robert Talbott, as an adviser. That association ended in February, Canton said, noting Cohen “continues to be a great friend and adviser and helped me interview for this position.”

She added that although Cohen was not officially ceo, “he played an active role in the business and was doing many of the things Larry will be doing.”

DeParis began his career with Escada in 1986, as it began to expand the retail component of its business. He left Escada in 1997 to join Calvin Klein Inc. as global senior vice president and chief financial officer. He rejoined Escada at the end of 1998 as co-president. He left the firm at the end of August.

According to DeParis, “I could not have asked for a more exciting opportunity than Nat Nast. Nat Nast is a truly authentic American brand with a terrific story and heritage. Patty, Barbara and their team have done a fabulous job in creating a solid base of beautiful product, brand awareness and quality distribution, setting the stage for an exciting new phase of development in existing and new product categories and distribution channels.”

Canton said Nat Nast sees many avenues for growth including licensing in men’s wear, a possible move into women’s wear and home, retail stores and international expansion.

The line is carried in Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and better specialty stores. Most recently it has moved into resorts, better hotels and golf shops. Currently limited to sportswear, Canton said the brand is “dabbling” in children’s wear and will introduce the first bowling shirts for kids at Nordstrom for Father’s Day. Underwear is also on the drawing board and neckwear and dress shirts will be launched for resort ’09.

The company was founded in 1946 by entrepreneur Nat Nast in Kansas City, Mo., who saw an opportunity in the burgeoning leisure activity of bowling. He is credited with creating the original “action back” shirt which featured inverted pleats to allow for greater comfort and arm movement and gained the nickname of “The King of the Bowling Shirts.”