Paul Stuart has selected a men’s wear veteran to lead its business.
Paulette Garafalo has been named president and chief executive officer of the retailer, effective June 14. She will succeed Michael Ostrove, the third generation of the family that founded the business in 1938, who is retiring.
“This will be my last hurrah,” Garafalo told WWD. “I’m so excited to take everything I’ve learned and build this amazing boutique American brand.”
For five-plus years, Garafalo has been president of international, wholesale and manufacturing at Brooks Brothers. Prior to that, she was ceo of The Americas for Bally and ceo and group president for Hickey Freeman, which was part of the Hartmarx Luxury Group.
“I was really happy at Brooks Brothers,” she said. “But I was also at the point where I was trying to figure out the last chapter of my career. Claudio [Del Vecchio, owner and ceo of Brooks Brothers] asked me to build international, then wholesale, then green grass and then get the manufacturing in order, and I did that.”
When she received a call from the Spencer Stuart search firm about Paul Stuart, her initial reaction was that she wasn’t interested. But the recruiter pointed to her experience in men’s luxury brands, women’s, wholesale, global, e-commerce and social media and talked up the dedication and global reach of Paul Stuart’s Japanese parent, “so I thought, what’s the chance of finding a parent company of that magnitude?”
At the end of 2012, Paul Stuart was acquired by Mitsui & Co. Ltd., its longtime Japanese licensee. Mitsui’s relationship with Paul Stuart dates to 1975 when it began to import the retailer’s private-label merchandise into Japan. In 1991, the relationship was expanded and Mitsui was granted an exclusive license to produce and sell Paul Stuart product in Japan. There are two Paul Stuart flagships in Tokyo — in Aoyama and Ginza — as well as about 150 points of sale in Japan. In the U.S., the company operates a 60,000-square-foot emporium on 45th Street and Madison, as well as two branches in Chicago and one in Washington, D.C.
Garafalo said she met with Tak Shirai, chairman of the Paul Stuart board, and said she immediately liked him. “I’ve been in charge of Japan for Brooks Brothers for five-and-a-half years and I love the Japanese and understand the culture,” she said. With that as the backdrop, she accepted the position. She will also assume a seat on the board.
Shirai pointed to Garafalo’s talent, experience and leadership skills as those needed for a new leader as the company enters a period of planned expansion. “Given the strength of our company with an exceptional group of talented people, I am sure we are able to build further success on top of the strong platform Mr. Ostrove has passed on to us. The board believes that Ms. Garafalo, because of her familiarity with brands such as ours, is an ideal choice for Paul Stuart at this time. We look forward to continuing to build with a new leader, ensuring both firm and sustainable growth and further enhancement of the brand value.”
Garafalo said she left Brooks Brothers on good terms and gave six weeks’ notice. A spokesman from Brooks Brothers said her position has not been filled.
“I would like to be the person who puts all the pieces of the puzzle together,” she said. “Paul Stuart is an undamaged, pure boutique brand. Their real estate is one of their gems and the stores in Japan are incredible.”
Plans for the business going forward include a major renovation of the Madison Avenue flagship in 2017, expanding product categories and adding stores domestically and internationally, she said.
“I have an affinity for heritage brands, especially for American heritage brands,” Garafalo added. “Paul Stuart has enjoyed a truly special place in that pantheon, in terms of that very particular sort of sophisticated, Anglo-American tailored clothing for which they are so widely celebrated.”
Ostrove become ceo of Paul Stuart in 2009 and oversaw the opening of the company’s second Chicago store as well as the Washington location. He was also the catalyst for the sale of the business to Misui.