With plans to venture into new categories including home and lifestyle, Lela Rose has hired Ellen Rodriguez as chief executive officer of the brand.

This story first appeared in the May 2, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Rodriguez will officially exit French Connection USA today as president and ceo. At Lela Rose, she takes over some of the responsibilities previously handled by Karen Scheck, who exited the company as president in March. Scheck, who could not be reached for comment, resigned to spend more time with her three children, according to a Lela Rose spokeswoman.

Rose and Rodriguez said they each knew quickly after meeting each other for the first time that they would be good partners. Rodriguez will join the company May 12 in its West 30th Street offices, which has a staff of about 17. Her licensing know-how was a major plus with Rose, who used CT Partners for the executive search. Not to mention that “Ellen looks every bit” like a Lela Rose person, the designer said.

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Rose also said she liked that Rodriguez (who has 25 years of experience at Juicy Couture, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, Nautica and Cole Haan) has such multidimensional experience in the fashion industry domestically and internationally. At two different points in her career, Rodriguez worked at Calvin Klein Inc. — first in corporate planning and a decade later as executive vice president of global licensing and marketing.

After graduating from what was formerly known as Parsons School of Design, Rose honed her skills working for Richard Tyler and then Christian Francis Roth before opening her own business in 1998. The Lela Rose label is sold in more than 75 specialty stores nationwide, including Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. The designer has a flagship store in her hometown of Dallas. Her collection is also sold in Canada, Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Japan. Building the designer’s core business is the number-one priority, Rodriguez said. While building the current business, which includes bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses, will be the immediate focus, there are plans to expand into shoes, bags, jewelry and other categories. It has not yet been determined whether that will be done in house or through licensing deals.

That said, the designer does have a signature tabletop collection in development, though a launch date has not been set.

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