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Boast, the tennis brand founded in 1973, has tapped Ryan Babenzien as chief executive officer and recruited Andy Spade as a creative consultant. Spade is also in the process of investing in the brand, which was revived in 2010 by John Dowling, president of the New York-based company.
This story first appeared in the May 3, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Sales quadrupled in 2011 — over a small base — and Boast is on track to quadruple sales again this year, said Babenzien, who declined to provide figures. However, he noted that “2013 will be the year we really accelerate as we offer a bigger product mix for the 40th anniversary year and open up the distribution a bit, both domestically and internationally.”
Babenzien was previously director of lifestyle and entertainment marketing at K-Swiss and earlier in his career was director of entertainment marketing at Puma. He has already enlisted his brother, Brendon Babenzien, who is creative director at the influential Supreme skate brand, as a design consultant for Boast’s upcoming collections.
The brand is currently in about 24 doors, including Scoop, By George in Austin, Conveyor at Fred Segal and Murray’s Toggery in Nantucket. Polo shirts for men and women, which retail for $68, are the brand’s core category, rounded out by T-shirts, neckwear, casual jackets, blazers and accessories.
Last year, Boast launched a small women’s capsule line with designer Minnie Mortimer, including a tennis dress, which is continuing for next season. Men’s comprises about 80 percent of total brand sales, and women’s is 20 percent.
Boast was originally founded by a Greenwich, Conn., tennis pro named Bill St. John, who still retains a minority ownership stake in the company. The brand has long catered to country clubs but with a youthful, hip edge that set it apart from competing active brands. Its logo, prominent on its polo shirts, is officially a Japanese maple leaf but is often mistaken for a cannabis leaf.
Spade, who previously helped co-found Kate Spade and Jack Spade, is co-creative director at Partners & Spade, an independent advertising and branding agency whose clients include J. Crew, Warby Parker and Target. Spade previously worked on the relaunch campaign for Boast two years ago but has now taken on a more active role in the company and is hammering out a potential financial stake in the brand.
“We’ve worked on the direction of the brand and getting sales in order, and now we can really push it,” said Spade. “They’ve gotten some more financial support from investors. I have ideas on brand extensions, like tennis bags and squash bags. I see huge potential. It’s got great American heritage and attitude. It’s a great, cool story. It’s the real McCoy.”