Calypso, the multifaceted retailer with 33 stores, has named former J. Crew executive Jennifer Foyle as president.
This story first appeared in the January 9, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
She takes over the leadership role that had been temporarily handled by Robert Grayson and Kevin Mullaney of The Grayson Group, retail consultants. The pair stepped in after Calypso founder Christiane Celle exited the $60 million company in April, due to clashes with management at Solera Capital LLC, which owns a majority stake, about the future direction of the company. A legal dispute has yet to be resolved.
In an interview Thursday, Solera’s chief executive officer Molly Ashby said Calypso’s five-year growth strategy is on track and the fact the retailer has women’s and children’s apparel, accessories and home goods should bode well as the economy shifts. “We’re already asking, ‘What will the new world look like? How will people shop? How can we make life as easy as possible for them?”
That said, Ashby was frank about this year’s outlook for the apparel industry. “They’re going through a very tough cycle right now, but all industries go through tough cycles,” she said. “If you’re not planning flat to down, you’re probably not being prudent.”
The company, which employs 200 people, plans to double the number of stores within the next five years, she said. Calypso’s diverse product range and geographical reach has the potential to “double, triple or quadruple in sales without feeling as though it has lost any of the specialness and quality of the brand,” Ashby said.
Foyle praised Ciele, who still owns 47 percent of the company, for doing such “a great job of creating such an extraordinary brand.” The fact that Calypso offers “affordable luxury” — most items are $200 and up — should help weather these trying financial times, she said. “Calypso has what I like to call the snowflake effect. You can find all sorts of things and leave not looking like everyone else. That’s something people will appreciate in these times.”
Foyle, who is based at Calypso’s Long Island City, N.Y., offices and reports to Ashby, said she is eager to work with director of design Elisa Miller, chief financial officer Brad Spencer and senior vice president and head of retail stores Beth Guastella. The latter is another new hire who previously worked at such firms as Hermès and Kate Spade.
Foyle said leaving J. Crew as chief merchandising officer was “definitely a tough decision,” namely because she had worked for Millard “Mickey” Drexler for 10 years — five years at J. Crew and prior to that five years at Gap. As for the break, she said, “We were both a little surprised….I’m not going to say it wasn’t uncomfortable at the time, but it’s all good now. We had a great conversation last week.”