NEW YORK — Melissa Parker-Lilly resigned as president of the Donna Karan New York collection on Thursday and said she is pursuing a job at another company.
Parker-Lilly, 47, has a reputation for being a driven and demanding leader, with impressive results. She put the Italian cashmere label Agnona on the map with its U.S. launch in 1996 and instituted a number of key strategies with Donna Karan’s high-end collections since joining the company in January 2003. Parker-Lilly introduced transseasonal collections, merchandised more basics that consumers could easily understand and imposed a strict calendar of design deadlines to improve Karan’s rate of retail deliveries.
“We accomplished a lot of things,” Parker-Lilly said. “There are a lot of things we can be proud of as a team.”
Donna Karan executives said they were surprised by Parker-Lilly’s resignation, though she had some conflicts with other executives. Until a replacement is found, those who reported to Parker-Lilly will work with Jeffry Aronsson, chief executive officer, a company spokeswoman said.
Parker-Lilly is said to have an offer from another fashion company, but she would not discuss her immediate plans.
LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which bought Donna Karan in 2001 for a total of $687 million, said in its most recent quarterly report in April that the company’s revenues were down about 30 percent in dollar terms because of store closures and the loss of sales from the European jeanswear business, which is now licensed. A research note published this month by Antoine Belge, luxury analyst at HSBC in Paris, described Donna Karan as “barely’’ profitable in 2003.
Parker-Lilly was one of the major recruits to Donna Karan of Fred Wilson, who was ceo of the company until he resigned in December to join Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises. Before Agnona, Parker-Lilly rebuilt Loro Piana’s business in the U.S. as senior vice president and was executive vice president at Hermès.
At Donna Karan, Parker-Lilly restructured the staff of the women’s collection business and recruited several patternmaking and production veterans who have helped augment the scope of the designer’s collections from the editorial runway lines to also include a range of jackets and knits that are merchandised within the more artistic pieces.
The company has also become more serious about its accessories business, introducing handbags, shoes, belts, scarves and jewelry on a broader basis at retail, working with factories through its connection to LVMH.