Simon Kneen, executive vice president of design and creative director of Banana Republic, is leaving the company, effective Dec. 31. Kneen’s departure was announced on Tuesday by Gap Inc. on the Banana Republic portion of the corporate Web site.
“In the last five years with the brand, Simon has led with passion, creativity and a thoughtful approach to designing modern and versatile styles for professional men and women. As we compete to win on the global stage, now is the right time to make a change,” said Jack Calhoun, global brand president of Banana Republic, a suggestion that Kneen’s departure was planned by the company.
The retailer said it will start a search for a new head of design and creative director immediately.
Kneen, who has been in his current role since January 2008, will remain with the Banana Republic design team through the end of the year to help manage the transition. Julie Rosen, a 19-year veteran of Gap Inc., will continue in her role as evp of Banana Republic North America, leading merchandising and inventory management.
Kneen was a fan of collaborations and capsule collections. He partnered with Hollywood for an “Anna Karenina” line based on the film, worked with Janie Bryant, the costume designer of AMC’s “Mad Men,” on two collections and introduced capsules from Trina Turk, Milly and Issa, among others. “Mad Men” has been credited with helping Banana Republic post $622 million in sales in the first quarter of 2012. A L’Wren Scott for Banana Republic collection will be Kneen’s final partnership, bowing in December.
Banana Republic may have been looking for design assistance for some time. The brand in August 2012 recruited Narciso Rodriguez to rev up its fashion offering. At the time, the specialty retailer said Rodriguez would assume an advisory role, working alongside Kneen. The first collection bearing the imprint of the Rodriguez-Banana Republic partnership launched for fall.
Gap said Rodriguez’s contract has expired and the company is looking forward to the next opportunity to bring fresh perspective to the brand.
Kneen’s final collection for Banana Republic will be summer 2014.