The Ovadia twins have found their president.
Neal Kusnetz, the cofounder and former president of Robert Graham, who served most recently as president of men’s and private brands for Xcel Brands, has come on board to help Ovadia & Sons expand its reach.
As reported in July, twins Shimon and Ariel Ovadia were searching for someone to join the company as they expand beyond U.S. borders, relaunch their e-commerce site and move into other product categories.
And after meeting with Kusnetz, they knew they’d found the right fit.
“We feel good about this,” said Shimon. “Ariel and I started this business with pure passion to make product, but no business plan and no financial backing.”
The brothers founded Ovadia & Sons in 2010 and the business has grown substantially from a tailored clothing-skewed brand to a multi-category lifestyle label with some 100 retail accounts including Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Shimon said Kusnetz will oversee the day-to-day operations of the brand while he and his brother will “concentrate on product and brand image.
“Running the day-to-day takes up a lot of time and micro-managing,” he added, “and we were at a point where bringing in someone with Neal’s experience to run the operations was the right thing to do.”
Ariel likened it to sports. “LeBron [James] doesn’t do everything himself,” he said. “You’re only as good as your team and it’s an honor to have someone of Neil’s caliber join us.”
Shimon said, “To be successful, you have to bring in people better than you at the things you’re not good at.”
The brothers said that they were drawn not only to Kusnetz’s business savvy but also his appreciation for product. “It’s hard to find someone who has a good business mind but is also excited when the samples come in,” Ariel said.
They stressed that despite Kusnetz’s arrival, they will “always be in control creatively” and involved in growing the business. Although they hinted at some investors, they declined to provide names or details at this point, saying only that “it’s more about partnerships than taking on investors with money,” Ariel said.
Kusnetz said he has been following the brand’s growth since 2015. “I’ve always admired them, their color, point of view and storytelling. I see tremendous talent with consistently high sell-through of product at retail,” he said. He quietly joined the brand about a month ago but is just now revealing his association.
Kusnetz will also work to build the company’s infrastructure and enhance its production capabilities both domestically and internationally, he said. A new marketing team will be installed and a head of sales hired, he added. A new office and showroom will be opened and licensees will be sought in appropriate categories such as footwear and accessories.
And by 2020, an Ovadia & Sons store will be opened in New York City, Kusnetz said.
“I’ll be bringing structure to the business and helping it build for the future,” he said.
One of the first orders of business is to bring Ovadia & Sons to China. The team will be traveling there this week as part of a new initiative between the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Suntchi. Ovadia & Sons as well as Colovos will be showing their collections at Ontimeshow during Shanghai Fashion Week from Oct. 11 to 14.
Next will be the “building of a designer premium denim play,” he said. Although the brand has offered denim in the past, there will be a larger, more concerted push for fall 2019.
Right now, Ovadia & Sons distribution is primarily in the U.S. with a small presence in Germany, but Kusnetz sees opportunity to expand further in Europe. “But they have to be the right partners,” he said, mentioning France, Sweden and the U.K. as the primary focus.
As a private company, he declined to provide a volume figure for the brand, but said it has the potential to be “a significant eight-figure business.
“They’ve got a huge following among artists, athletes and pop stars that has happened organically,” Kusnetz said. “It’s a brand that has a real buzz.”
He continued, “I haven’t felt this invigorated in years. The opportunity to build Ovadia into the next industry brand leader is most exciting. The men’s luxury market is in need of a new brand with color, juxtaposition and rich storytelling. Ovadia clearly fills a void in opening price point luxury, which is a niche I know very well. To be involved with not one but two creative geniuses is a true gift that I value greatly.”