LOS ANGELES — What’s going on at St. John Knits International?

There is persistent speculation that designer Marie Gray and creative director Kelly Gray may be exiting their posts at the Irvine, Calif.-based company in September. This spring, it was reported Kelly Gray would no longer appear in the company’s ads, as she has for the last 22 years.

The Grays could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and a spokesman declined comment.

The latest buzz comes as the company continues to be restyled by chief executive officer Richard Cohen, who came on board last year. The Gray family sold a majority of St. John to Vestar Capital for $520 million in 1999, when the company was taken private, but retains a minority stake.

In January, Marie Gray had extended her contract through the end of 2005, although she has remained tight-lipped about her plans beyond the end of the year. Also in January, Kelly Gray entered a new three-year agreement with St. John, the company her parents Marie and Bob Gray founded in 1962. A month later, in February, it was announced that she and the company’s new outside agency, David Lipman in New York, would feature an A-list celebrity in its fall campaign. No one has been announced as of yet, however.

In early March, chief operating officer Bruce Fetter resigned after eight years at the company. This followed several top appointments at the start of the year: Robert Green was named executive vice president, sales and marketing; Max Weinstein, executive vice president, operations, and Elfriede Campbell, executive vice president, human resources.

In recent weeks, there has been talk that St. John was searching for a top-name designer to take over for Marie Gray. The speculation included talk that Tom Ford might join the company, which was further fueled when Domenico De Sole dropped into a St. John’s sales meeting in early April. That and suggestions De Sole, who is a friend of Cohen’s, might join the St. John board were also filed under “no comment” by a company spokeswoman.

This story first appeared in the May 11, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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