Patty Nast Canton, co-founder of men’s sportswear brand Nat Nast, has exited the company, WWD has learned.

This story first appeared in the January 8, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Canton launched the South Norwalk, Conn.-based brand in 2000 with her sister, Barbara Nast Saletan, who remains with the company as executive vice president of sales. Canton was president and chief executive officer of Nat Nast until April 2009, when Lawrence DeParis was named to that position. He was a former president and ceo of Escada USA. Canton assumed the creative director title at that time.

While Canton and Saletan founded the company and named it for their father, they only hold a minority stake in it. Outside investors own a controlling stake in the brand and that may have led to Canton’s exit, said sources. The investors had pumped more money into the company over the past year, further diluting Canton and Saletan’s stake.

Reached Thursday, Canton declined to provide details on her departure, but noted: “I started out in my basement 10 years ago and invented this company. There are lots of directions to go and things to do in the future.”

DeParis also declined to elaborate on the departure, but said Canton’s responsibilities as creative director will principally be assumed by Kerry Ryan, Nat Nast’s longtime vice president of design. Ryan joined the company in 2002.

Saletan did not return calls for comment.

Canton and Saletan founded the company with a line of upscale, retro-inspired bowling shirts that were based on designs that their late father popularized in the Fifties and Sixties. Nat Nast originally founded the brand in Kansas City, Mo., in 1946, but it had fallen into disuse after he sold it in the late Sixties.

Over the past decade, the two sisters revived the name and grew the company into a full gentlemen’s sportswear collection that is now sold in more than 600 department and specialty store doors, including Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Mitchells. The brand is known for its casual, vintage-inspired embroidered shirts and upscale knitwear.

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