Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — After heading Donna Karan International’s in-house ad agency for nine years, Trey Laird will set up his own shop with Karan’s blessing — and her account — confirming a report in WWD on Tuesday.
DKI plans to move the majority of its creative services from its current in-house structure to Laird + Partners, which will open Monday. According to sources, DKI’s annual ad budget is in excess of $25 million.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while,” said the 37-year-old Laird, who has served as DKI’s executive vice president of corporate imaging and creative director. Laird has subleased the 10th floor of Karan headquarters at 550 Seventh Avenue here until the end of the year and plans to look for new space. He said he will take on new accounts if they are appropriate and not directly competitive with Karan and DKNY.
Donna Karan, founder and chief designer of DKI, said: “Trey has been my partner in developing the image of the company for such a long time. He seamlessly understands my vision and we have built a wonderful, creative relationship. This is an opportunity for him to grow professionally, while maintaining our long-standing association.”
Laird + Partners, which Laird is financing independently, will open with 15 employees, including media planners, art directors and account and production people. The agency will be responsible for all aspects of Karan’s creative development, media planning, print production, collateral and brand identity projects. However, the media buying assignment will continue to be handled corporately by the buying agencies of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, DKI’s parent. Karan’s visual display, visual merchandising and store design responsibilities, formerly reporting to Laird, will remain in-house.

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