LONDON — Times are changing at Tom Ford International, which in the past few weeks has seen a change in top management and the impending addition of watches and men’s underwear to the $200 million-plus business.
On Tuesday, the company said that one of Ford’s oldest colleagues, Brian Blake, would take over as president and chief operating officer. Blake, who once served as president and chief executive officer of Gucci Worldwide, will take over Tom Mendenhall’s position as chief operating officer. Mendenhall has resigned his post, and is pursuing other opportunities.
Blake was formerly chief executive officer of distribution and manufacturing for Tom Ford International, and will report to Tom Ford, cofounder and ceo. In this new role, Blake will oversee all business activities and operations.
Blake’s appointment follows that of Charlotte Blechman as chief marketing officer, a new position. Blechman is also another longtime colleague: She worked with Ford at Gucci starting in the Nineties, and left what was then known as Gucci Group in 2010.
As reported, Cori Galpern, Ford’s longtime senior vice president of communications, left in January to pursue other opportunities.
Since the start of the New Year, Ford has also unveiled plans to launch watches with Tom Kartsotis’ Bedrock Manufacturing Co. and men’s underwear under license with Albisetti International.
Tom Ford principals declined to comment on the significance of the many changes so far this year. But while the company is keeping mum, it is not alone in restructuring. This year is already shaping up to be one of sweeping — and often abrupt — management change across companies including Tiffany & Co., Ralph Lauren Corp., Hudson’s Bay Co. and Compagnie Financière Richemont.
An industry source said the Tom Ford business is going through a natural cycle of change as it positions itself for future growth, with the latest moves “very positive” for the company.
Tom Ford International is a private company, based in the U.S., and does not disclose sales or profit figures. Revenues are thought to be well in excess of $200 million, not including hefty licensing income.
Ford creates women’s and men’s beauty products with The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. and lines of eyewear with Marcolin, both of which preceded the launch of his fashion business.
The brand first launched men’s wear and added women’s wear in 2010. Its first store was a flagship at 845 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, but the company later this year will move that store to a new two-level, 12,300-square-foot location at 680 Madison.
It’s no secret that Ford likes working with longtime colleagues: His chairman is Domenico De Sole, with whom he ran Gucci – and later Gucci Group – after fending off a hostile takeover attempt by Bernard Arnault in the late Nineties. Gucci Group was later folded into Kering, formerly known as PPR.
“I have known and worked with Brian Blake for the past 27 years since we began our working relationship and friendship at Gucci in 1990,” Ford said. “We have grown and developed together over that time and most recently worked closely together at Tom Ford International.
“Brian is a rare creature in our industry as he is highly analytical and practical yet also has tremendous people skills and is a proven leader. He has made many great contributions to Tom Ford International and I look forward to a new chapter in our growth and development with Brian at my side.”
Blake, a 40-year veteran of the fashion industry who has also held top management positions at Prada and Miu Miu, and Burberry, called the company “exceptional” and said he’ll be working closely with Ford to build the business and create “the world’s leading luxury brand.”