Under Armour has been rushing to turn itself around — and now it hopes a new head of design will help put it back on the growth track.
On Monday morning, the Baltimore-based sports brand named Kasey Jarvis chief design officer. He will start in early April and will succeed the long-serving Dave Dombrow, who quietly left the company earlier this month.
Jarvis has nearly 20 years of experience in apparel, footwear, equipment, industrial and automotive design and has worked for Nike over the course of his career. He will report to chief product officer Kevin Eskridge.
Dombrow was a major figure at Under Armour, in charge of all product design for the company. When he exited a few weeks ago, it marked his second departure from Under Armour. In early 2016, he left after a five-year stint to join Nike, where he had worked earlier in his career, but before his non-compete expired, Under Armour managed to lure him back.
While at Under Armour, Dombrow was credited with creating the successful Stephen Curry line of basketball sneakers as well as other running shoes. He was also in the top spot when the latest HOVR shoes were introduced last month, a running shoe collection that connects to the company’s Map My Run app and now provides coaching advice to the wearer.
Dombow’s current LinkedIn profile shows no company affiliation, saying only that he is in the concept/design creation business in Baltimore.
Whether Jarvis can replicate that success remains to be seen but he’s stepping into a highly competitive role. He will head the design team across all product platforms, regions and categories and will be responsible for the translation and commercialization of athlete insights and industry trends into product concepts.
Kevin Plank, Under Armour’s chairman and chief executive officer, said Jarvis’ “unique mix of design experience from the auto, footwear and performance equipment industries will help to inform and deliver on our mission to design performance solutions athletes never knew they needed and can’t imagine living without. This is a leader who will inspire our incredible team to deliver beautiful, innovative design that the world’s never seen before.”
Jarvis was most recently vice president of product and design for Black Diamond Equipment, a Utah-based climbing, skiing and mountain climbing company. Prior to that, he held design roles at Nike and General Motors.
Under Armour did not provide anyone Monday to provide further clarity on Dombrow’s latest departure or expectations for Jarvis. In December, the company said that in order to get back on track, it will depend more on data and less on “gut” as it works to gain a larger share of the $92 billion athletic apparel and footwear market of its target consumer. The entire market represents $280 billion but Under Armour is focused on the competitive and weekend warrior athlete.
During its first-quarter earnings call in February, Patrik Frisk, Under Armour’s president, pointed to not only the strong results of the latest running HOVR shoes but also a “reinvent of our compression platform” with the Rush and Recover product launching in April.
Plank said at the time that “what may be perceived as our weakness for us today is actually going to be our greatest strength. We understand where the trends are. We understand what people are saying. We get ath-leisure in some of that movement. But we believe that Under Armour was born on field as a performance brand, technical in its nature, what we do and how we do it.”
The once high-flying Under Armour has faced some major challenges over the past few years. Under pressure from Wall Street, Plank somewhat loosened his management control and Under Armour brought Frisk on board in the summer of 2017 to spearhead a $200 million, three-year restructuring program to reengineer and streamline the business.
The company began a round of layoffs earlier this month with plans to eliminate some 400 positions worldwide and its results have been less than spectacular. In December, the company said its operating loss is now expected to be about $40 million to $55 million this year versus the previously expected $50 million to $55 million. Revenue isn’t projected to return to a low-double-digit growth rate until 2023.
The improved results are due in part to reducing its product offering to eliminate redundancies, upgrade its systems and getting a better handle on customer demand, the company said.
Plank personally has been criticized for not only allowing employees to expense strip club visits, but also for his close relationship with MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle. A Wall Street Journal story in February detailed how Plank and Ruhle traveled on his private jet and she provided business advice to the company. Neither has commented publicly on the relationship.