ATLANTA — Chico’s FAS Inc. has appointed Donna Noce Colaco, formerly president of Ann Taylor Loft, as brand president of White House|Black Market.

She succeeds Patricia Darrow-Smith, who was one of the founders of the White House|Black Market division in 1985. Darrow-Smith joined Chico’s in 2003 when it acquired the chain and was appointed brand president in March 2007. She is leaving the company to spend time with her family, according to Chico’s.

Colaco has 25 years experience in women’s specialty apparel, including in numerous capacities with Ann Taylor and, prior to that, with the Lerner New York division of Limited Brands Inc. and Petrie Stores Corp.

Scott Edmonds, president and chief executive officer of Chico’s, said in a phone interview that Darrow-Smith’s entrepreneurial spirit and leadership had been invaluable in growing White House|Black Market since the 2003 acquisition, but that Colaco’s skills suited the company’s current position.

“The skill set required to grow a company to over $1 billion in sales is different than that of launching a company and growing it to $500 million,” he said, adding Colaco would oversee the entire White House|Black Market division, including stores, merchandising groups, production, quality control and, eventually, all marketing of the brand.

Since being bought by Chico’s in 2003, White House|Black Market has grown from $100 million in sales to the nearly $500 million anticipated this year.

“Donna is an inspiring leader and strong executive with a proven track record of growing an existing women’s specialty apparel business,” Edmonds said. “We expect that her creative insight and strategic vision will be important in helping us to develop the brand’s merchandise as we continue to grow the business.”

Edmonds said the appointment was “not a left turn” in fashion direction, and not related to sales, which were soft this spring for the division. He attributed sluggish same-store sales to “last year’s strong increases in the 30s and 40s, and to a slowdown in the [Baby] Boomer market overall.”

White House|Black Market’s same-store sales for the five-week period ended July 7 decreased 4 percent compared to the same period last year.

This story first appeared in the August 9, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Chico’s is a specialty retailer of private branded product, with 958 women’s specialty stores, including 570 Chico’s frontline stores, 35 Chico’s outlet stores, 272 White House|Black Market frontline stores, 17 White House|Black Market outlets, 63 Soma Intimates frontline stores and one Soma Intimates outlet.