Theory has named Jeffrey Kalinksy as chief merchant and creative officer, and Rachel DeLaurentis as chief marketing and digital officer.
Both appointments, which are effective immediately, were made to amplify the company’s digital growth and product strategies.
“We are thrilled to have Jeffrey and Rachel join Theory at this exciting time for the brand,” said Dinesh Tandon, global chief executive officer of Theory. “They are both passionate and experienced in inspiring customers and have their fingers on the pulse of the market. We are looking forward to their leadership and innovation as we continue to expand our business globally.”
Tandon said Kalinsky has expansive experience as both a merchant and a multibrand retailer.
“He knows the ethos of the Theory brand and knows customers in a way that’s incredibly valuable. His experience will help create additional dimensions to our collection,” said Tandon.
As for DeLaurentis, he said: “Our e-commerce business has grown exponentially over the past two years and it’s just the tip of the iceberg for us. Rachel has expertise in this channel that will help take Theory to the next level.”
In his newly created role, Kalinsky will oversee Theory’s merchandising and product design functions.
A well-known entrepreneur and merchandiser with more than 30 years experience in the fashion industry, Kalinsky is best known as the founder of luxury specialty stores Jeffrey New York, Jeffrey Atlanta and Jeffrey Palo Alto.
Jeffrey, a high fashion emporium, made a splash in 1999 when Kalinsky opened a 12,000-square-foot store at 449 West 14th Street in New York’s Meatpacking District, which also happens to be Theory’s neighborhood. At that time, it was a rather desolate section of the city. Jeffrey’s arrival proved to be a magnet for other designer stores to open in the neighborhood, though many eventually left, unable to support rising rents, and were replaced by retail brands with broader appeal and bigger budgets, like Levi’s and Apple. Jeffrey also had a store in the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, Calif., and in Phipps Plaza in Atlanta, which was the original store that opened in 1990.
In 2005, Nordstrom bought a majority stake in Jeffrey, and Kalinsky joined the Seattle-based retailer as director of designer merchandising. He later became executive vice president, working closely with the buying team and introducing designers like Gucci, Nina Ricci and Comme des Garçons to the offering. He oversaw strategic initiatives and creative collaborations for Nordstrom. In 2020, Nordstrom permanently closed its three Jeffrey specialty stores and parted ways with Kalinsky, whose final role with the company was as vice president, working closely with the marketing and merchandising teams.
Since November, Kalinsky has been a creative consultant to Theory.
“Theory does an amazing job at elevating workwear to all aspects of a person’s life, and I’m excited to help evolve the product to meet our customers’ ever-changing needs,” Kalinsky said. “Together we will continue to create sophisticated fashion that excites and inspires globally.”
When asked where he thinks Theory could use the most help in terms of both the merchandising and creative direction of the line, Kalinksy told WWD: “I think Theory is the dominant brand when it comes to clean, modern fashion in the contemporary market, and I want to support creative and merchandising to reinforce that.”
For Kalinksy, the Theory position will be a full-time job. “I plan to eat, sleep and dream Theory 24/7,” he said.
As for what changes he envisions bringing to the collection, Kalinsky said: “For me, it’s about evolving and reinforcing the synergies of the Theory customer across all the categories.”
DeLaurentis’ role at Theory will be to amplify the brand’s digital-first marketing capability and scale execution for impact.
The Stanford MBA most recently worked at Fleur du Mal as chief marketing officer, overseeing the brand’s growth. Before that, she was CEO and chief brand officer for Awe Inspired, a luxury fine jewelry company.
“Theory is an iconic brand with a rich history and is well-poised to solve modern urban dressing for people everywhere,” DeLaurentis said. “I’m excited to help lead Theory into its next chapter by growing the digital business through innovation and customer-centricity.”
Discussing where she envisions making the biggest impact, DeLaurentis said: “The biggest opportunity for the brand is to tap into digital and other innovation as a means for building stronger, more meaningful connections with customers on a global scale. Value creation has always been at the center point of our brand offerings, so finding fresh ways to translate that value into marketing is the ultimate objective. Growth is a natural by-product. We want to meet our customers where they are through community building, expanding engagement and interaction points in a connected world.”
As to how the company was performing and whether it’s lost any of its luster in recent years, Tandon said: “The brand is performing very well globally — we’ve been a leader in the industry for 25 years — and we want to continue our success and evolve to the next level of growth by bringing in a fresh perspective.”
Theory has seen some changes in the C-suite recently with Siddhartha Shukla, chief brand officer, exiting the company last December to become deputy general manager at Lanvin in Paris.
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