NEW YORK — LeSportsac is taking the next steps under its new ownership, hiring Elizabeth Kiester as creative director.

Kiester starts today in the new role, which will be integral to helping the handbag brand known for its nylon satchels and colorful prints formulate a road map for the future, said Ken Landis, chief executive officer of LeSportsac and chief operating officer of Accessory Network Group.

The goals include ramping up LeSportsac’s footprint — first in the U.S. and then Europe — by opening freestanding stores and broadening wholesale distribution, exploring brand extensions, looking into licensing possibilities and evaluating market trends worldwide.

“We have an outstanding team in place now, but we wanted somebody who could be a key player and could tie all the groups together,” Landis said. “We also feel Elizabeth’s experience is perfect for understanding our consumer.”

LeSportsac was purchased in February by Brand Science LLC, a partnership between New York licensing and manufacturing company Accessory Network Group and Japanese conglomerate Itochu Corp. The brand sold for $100 million, industry sources said at the time.

Kiester’s background combines experience in fashion and media. She most recently was director of global concepts for a year-and-a-half at Abercrombie & Fitch. Before that, she worked for three years as a fashion director for YM. She also was a market director at Jane magazine, starting during its launch.

“In all the jobs I have had, I have been working on contemporary and junior brands, and I have always been a fan of LeSportsac,” Kiester said. “I think it’s a brand for somebody who is young in age or spirit and loves fashion and loves to collect. I’m looking forward to creating strategies for the short term and long term that keep what the brand is about intact, but take it to a whole new level.”

Landis said LeSportsac is performing above plan, with 25 percent increases in the U.S. and Europe compared with last year. The brand’s core classics business has jumped 15 percent, while the novelty Tokidoki line, which launched in February, has sold double what LeSportsac anticipated. Landis said he expects to keep up the momentum and expand the business dramatically. He declined to reveal sales figures.

This story first appeared in the June 12, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“LeSportsac has been consistently successful in Asia, so the brand always put the focus there,” said Landis. “As a result, it’s underdeveloped in the U.S. and Europe, and we think there’s a lot of opportunity to build those markets.”

LeSportsac has six freestanding stores in New York and Los Angeles and is signing leases for two new stores in Seattle and in the Aventura Mall in Aventura, Fla., both of which are expected to open in the fall. The brand wants to open four additional U.S. stores in the next year. It is also hoping to bump up its in-store shop presence nationwide.

“We feel like it’s a lifestyle brand that we can build upon,” Landis said.

LeSportsac has slated early 2007 for addressing the European market. Landis said the brand is in negotiations with a distribution company to boost its business in Spain, Italy and France. LeSportsac is also looking to the U.K. as another European destination for growth.

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