‘It’s a new age’: Fashion brands are bringing new leadership to face a changing world.


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From Elaine Fisher and Lively to Gap and Under Armor, top executives at several apparel brands have stepped down in the past two months.

Some have been peaceful, long-planned transitions, like Elaine Fisher’s retirement after managing her namesake brand since the 1980s. Others like the sudden rise of The Gap’s Sonia Singhal and The Real Real’s Julie Wainwright. Either way, the industry’s massive changes, the pandemic, the recession, crises around diversity and racial justice, and the growing threat of climate change, have left the industry inundated with new blood as brands look for new ones. Solutions.

In the year For Fisher, who founded her brand in 1984 and announced in August that she is leaving, the environment is always at the forefront of her mind. Her product was popular years ago and was influential in adopting many of the sustainability programs that brands are now ramping up, such as repurposing old clothes. She cites climate change, Covid, and the movement toward greater diversity and inclusion as indicators that the industry is in extreme flux.

“I always try to stay on top of what’s needed now, [and] To ask myself where I contributed best and where we need more insights and different ways,” Fisher said. “Perhaps this is the hallmark of a founder. It’s about seeing the forest for the trees without the ego to identify what is needed now to support the health of the company and the well-being of society.

Fisher says it’s the right thing to do now with a replacement that she’s confident will support the brand’s core values, with a strong sustainability-focused plan in place. Lisa Williams, who previously replaced Fisher as Patagonia’s chief product officer, has been working with Fisher over the past month to ensure a smooth transition.

“Now is the right time for me to bring in a CEO. [the brand] It’s a key ingredient in our transition as a community and in my role,” Fisher said. “We need a leader with deeply held and shared values ​​to move my vision forward and develop the most meaningful and positive ways for a new era.”

A smooth transition is what Michelle Cordero Grant, founder of US-based DTC underwear brand Lively, is targeting when she steps down from her role as chief executive. In the year She will stay on as a consultant until March 2023 and will continue to act as Lively’s public face, with Christine DiCunzolo easing into her new role.

For Cordeiro Grant, the move was prompted by Lively’s need for someone with marketing experience to help it grow internationally. The brand was acquired in 2019 by Wacoal America, a close company of which DiCunzolo is the chief marketing officer.

Cordeiro Grant has been building LivelyApp since 2015 and has been a spokesperson for new and growing companies. Lively said she was made by going on the road and making the case to investors and the press. Now that she’s established and has new leadership, Lively says she’s turning her attention to new ventures, specifically in the Web 3 space.

“What I’m doing is forcing myself to have a seat at the table in Web 3,” Cordero Grant said. “There were very few female founders in Web 2. But now there’s an opportunity to do it differently at the start of Web 3.

For the rest of 2022, major apparel brands will continue to lose their CEOs. Adidas CEO Caspar Rosted will leave early next year and PVH Corp executives, including Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, as well as leaders Stitch Fix and Unbound Group, will leave before then. Even less famous fashion bodies are losing their heads – British Fashion Council chair Stephanie Faier is stepping down this week.

“It’s definitely a new era,” Fisher said. “In some respects, it is an overdue, strong time to move together with awareness and commitment. In other ways, it’s a very challenging time to build sustainable business models that live up to the realities of supply chains.


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