Jeanswear and sportswear veteran John Ermatinger has been appointed chief executive officer of True Religion Apparel Co.

David Conn, who has served in that capacity at the Vernon, Calif.-based firm since TowerBrook Capital Partners’ acquisition of the company in July 2013 for $835 million, has stepped down.

Ermatinger, most recently interim senior vice president of global sourcing and production at True Religion, was previously ceo of the Tommy Hilfiger business in Asia and earlier served as president of the Americas for Levi Strauss & Co. He’s also held top global posts with Gap Inc. and Nike Inc. in the Asia-Pacific region.

John Anderson, chairman of True Religion, commented, “John is a seasoned industry veteran who will lead True Religion towards more accelerated growth. His strong management skills, deep experience at leading apparel companies and appreciation for high-quality product is the right combination to drive True Religion’s transformation forward.”

Anderson preceded Chip Bergh as president and ceo of Levi Strauss & Co., retiring in 2011 and joining True Religion’s board, along with Gap veteran Marka Hansen, in 2014.

Like a number of premium denim companies that have moved on to new owners as better denim has receded from its peak, True Religion has faced an uphill fight as it’s plotted out a strategic plan spanning its merchandising and marketing as well as its retail approach.

In May 2014, Moody’s Investors Service analyst Raya Sokolyanskaya lowered the company’s corporate family credit rating a notch, to “B3” from “B2,” based on True Religion’s “high debt leverage in the high six-times range, limited scale and narrow product focus in the premium denim category.” Premium denim was viewed as “mature” and vulnerable to other rival categories, such as activewear.

Sokolyanskaya ultimately placed the focus of the company’s performance on how well the team assembled by Conn was able to achieve “meaningful earnings growth…while maintaining good liquidity.”

Ermatinger commented, “True Religion has redesigned its product line and brand platform, launched compelling collaborations with style leaders and enhanced the customer experience with a remodel of its retail stores, implementation of omnichannel functionality and a new e-commerce platform.”

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