Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — The changes continue at Calvin Klein Inc.
Susan Sokol, president of Calvin Klein Collection, resigned Tuesday after 23 years with the company. It is the second major departure this year. Neil Kraft left as senior vice president of advertising and creative services in January. He has not been replaced yet.
In addition, Denise Seegal, former president of DKNY, came aboard in January as president of the CK women’s and men’s businesses, taking over duties previously handled by Daniel Gladstone, who is currently focusing on Klein’s jeans business.
All these changes took place after the arrival of Gabriella Forte as president and chief operating officer last summer. “I’ve had 23 wonderful years here,” said Sokol, in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s such a big part of my life. Things change, and it’s just time to move on.” Sokol denied that she resigned under pressure, despite reports that she and Forte weren’t getting along. Sources speculated that Sokol is leaving with a substantial severance package.
“I have a lot of respect for her,” Sokol said, referring to Forte. “She’ll be wonderful for this company. It’s time [to move on].”
Sokol said she planned “a little time for herself to refocus” and think about what she would do next. “I have a lot of interests and a very full life.”
Forte was in Italy and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Barry Schwartz, chairman of Calvin Klein, said, “I want her [Sokol] to be happy. She’s given us 23 really wonderful years, and no employer could ask for a better employee. She’s a wonderful person and dear friend.”
Schwartz said the company would name her successor at a later date. Sokol’s departure date hasn’t been decided yet.
Sokol was an integral part in building the Calvin Klein business over the past two and a half decades, and served as Collection president the last 12 years.
Of the Collection, she said, “It’s evolved into a very meaningful business and a key resource for all the stores we sell.” The Collection is sold to 75 domestic and 65 international accounts.
Sokol was instrumental in establishing regional coordinators who work closely with the stores. She also played a key role in securing the right real estate for the Collection and in training Klein’s sales personnel.
In a business where divisional presidents come and go, Sokol was a fixture on the designer sportswear scene, establishing close relationships with retailers.
Sokol joined Klein and Schwartz in 1972 as a sales executive and worked her way up. At the time, Klein was a coat and suit manufacturer. “A few months later we changed it into a sportswear firm and then designer sportswear evolved from that,” said Sokol.
Although the roles of Klein and Schwartz weren’t diminished when Forte came on board, her appointment enabled the two to let go of a number of responsibilities. Forte’s arrival also changed the dynamics of the firm.
Each of the divisional presidents, senior managers and key product design executives — many of whom reported directly to Klein and Schwartz — would now report to Forte.