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West Elm creative director leaves for J.Crew

BY Marianne Wilson

West Elm’s loss is J. Crew’s gain.

J.Crew Group has named Johanna Uurasjarvi as chief design officer, responsible for the overall design direction for the J.Crew brand. She will report to J. Crew CEO Jim Brett.

Uurasjarvi joins J.Crew from West Elm, where she was the creative director of the specialty home furnishings company, which is owned by Williams-Sonoma. Prior to that, she was the executive creative director of product design for Anthropologie, where she built the company’s first in-house design team.

“Johanna brings more than 25 years of fashion and design experience with a unique understanding of how customers shop and live,” said Jim Brett, CEO of J. Crew Group.

Brett and Uurasjarvi previously worked together at West Elm, where he was president before joining J. Crew in spring 2017. They also both had senior positions at Anthropologie.

At West Elm, Uurasjarvi was the concept builder of its successful “New Modern” assortment, a lighter and brighter interpretation of classic Mid-Century Modern with layered textures and material innovation, incorporating the company’s signature interest in global artistry. She was an instrumental part of a team that helped the brand to reach $1 billion in revenue, according to the release by J. Crew.

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Eddie Bauer names president

BY Marianne Wilson

Eddie Bauer has promoted an insider to lead the brand.

The specialty outdoor retailer named Damien Huang as president. He was most recently Eddie Bauer’s senior VP of merchandising & design. In his new role, Huang will oversee the design, merchandising, marketing, retail, e-commerce, licensing, international, and wholesale functions of the business. He will report to Mike Egeck, CEO of PSEB, the new operating company composed of Eddie Bauer and PacSun.

“He [Huang] has played a pivotal role in the transition of the Eddie Bauer business into a performance outdoor brand – and it comes as no surprise that performance product has grown at a double digit rate over the last five years under his leadership,” said Egeck. “His passion for the outdoors and his knowledge in building award-winning product will ensure that Eddie Bauer continues its strong momentum.”

Huang joined Eddie Bauer in March 2010 as senior VP of outerwear, accessories, and gear. He has held multiple senior product positions while at the company.

Eddie Bauer also announced that Mike Africa has been named VP of commerce, having responsibility for both the retail and e-commerce businesses.

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Chico’s FAS exec takes top role at Rue21

BY Marianne Wilson

Changes are afoot at teen apparel retailer Rue 21, which has appointed a new CEO, along with a new chief marketing office and CFO.

The teen apparel retailer named Laurie Van Brunt as president and CEO, effective June 25, 2018. She succeeds Michael C. Appel who was named interim chief executive in October 2017. (He will continue to serve as chairman.) Her appointment follows a search that the company initiated when it exited bankruptcy in September.

Van Brunt joins the 752-store Rue 21 from Chico’s FAS, where she was president of Soma Intimates from 2010 to 2017, during which time sales grew from $87 million to $350 million

Prior to Chico’s, Van Brunt was corporate VP, director of private brand management at J. C. Penney Company, from 2005 to 2010, where she managed the company’s private brand portfolio of 22 brands across all merchandise categories. Earlier in her career, she served in senior management roles at Chadwick’s of Boston, and the Lane Bryant division of The Limited.

In other appointments, Rue 21 named Stephen Sommers as senior VP and chief marketing officer. Most recently, Sommers was chief marketing officer at Vineyard Vines. Prior to Vineyard Vines, he was VP global brand marketing from 2012 to 2016.

Also, Rue21 selected Michele Pascoe as senior VP and CFO, succeeding Stephen Coulombe who was named interim finance head in March 2018.

Pascoe joins rue21 from Alvarez & Marsal, a financial consulting firm. Prior to Alvarez and Marsal, from 2013-2017, Pascoe was chief administration officer and CFO of privately held grocery chain Marsh Supermarkets. From 2009 to 2013, Pascoe was senior VP and CFO of Charming Shoppes/ Fashion Bug division.

“With our increased financing in place, Laurie’s leadership, our new senior team, and the utilization of innovative data analytics to drive our business, we are confident that rue21 will be an even stronger brand that delivers outstanding growth and profit,” said Rue21 chairman Apple.

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