Malissa Akay

Lane Bryant shored up a key position in its ranks, naming Malissa Akay senior vice president and general merchandise manager to oversee creative direction and design.

Akay was most recently chief merchandising officer for Polo Accessories at Ralph Lauren. She will be based in Columbus, Ohio, and report to Linda Heasley, Lane Bryant’s chief executive officer. Akay succeeds Lou-Ann Bett, who held the title of executive vice president and chief merchandising officer and recently joined The Limited.

Prior to working at Polo, Akay spent 13 years at DFS Group covering several categories including fashion, watches, jewelry and food. She has nearly 20 years experience in business operations, product and worldwide brand development.

Heasley characterized Akay’s job at Lane Bryant as a “very pivotal creative operations role.” She said that Akay during her career “has demonstrated talent to develop high-performing teams that deliver results.”

Lane Bryant, the nation’s largest women’s special size apparel retailer for sizes 14 to 28, is part of the Ascena Retail Group which also owns Maurices, Justice, Dressbarn, Catherines, Ann Taylor, Loft and Lou & Grey.

Lane Bryant over the past couple of years has been raising its profile with feisty advertising, including its “I’m No Angel” campaign, as well as temporary designer collaborations. Prabal Gurung, for example, is collaborating with the retailer on a limited-edition women’s collection to be sold under the Prabal Gurung Exclusively for Lane Bryant label. It’s scheduled to hit 180 Lane Bryant stores and in March. Isabel Toledo kicked off the designer strategy with a spring 2014 collection. Sophie Theallet, Lela Rose and Christian Siriano followed with Lane Bryant collections.

The company has 775 stores and about $1 billion in annual volume.

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