Calvin Klein officer joins London Fog Varvatos to lead 'upscale' move

November 17, 1993|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,Staff Writer

London Fog Corp. announced yesterday the appointment of a top menswear executive at Calvin Klein Inc. as its new vice chairman and executive vice president to spearhead the company's move into a more upscale line.

The appointment of John Varvatos, 38, is part of an overall restructuring at the Eldersburg-based outerwear and raincoat maker as the company attempts to recover from the recession, changing sales patterns and a heavy debt load.

The move was announced by Arnold Cohen, who took over as chairman and chief executive of London Fog in August after leaving his post as president of J. Crew Group Inc.

Mr. Varvatos, who will report directly to Mr. Cohen, will be responsible for the design and merchandising of products and brands sold under the London Fog name. In addition, he will develop a sportswear line under his own name to be sold to a restricted group of specialty and department stores, the company said.

He assumes his new posts on Nov. 29.

Before becoming president for menswear at Calvin Klein, Mr. Varvatos was president of Keaton Chase and an executive at Cole Haan and Polo Ralph Lauren. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Mary, and their son and daughter, the company said.

The appointment of Mr. Varvatos is part of a plan, announced earlier by Mr. Cohen, to create upscale London Fog boutiques and make and sell more expensive rainwear. The company currently has a 60 percent market share in the U.S. men's raincoat business.

Mr. Cohen said yesterday that Mr. Varvatos brings to London Fog a"strong discipline and design ethic as well as true business sensibility."

"I believe his strengths are clearly visible in the success of Calvin's men's lines," he said.

Mr. Cohen said he expects to add other top managers in the future but he declined to elaborate. London Fog employs 3,500 people, including 600 workers at its Eldersburg headquarters and 1,400 in other parts of Maryland.

In one of his first major moves, Mr. Cohen said last week that the company in January would shutdown a Northwest Baltimore factory, employing 70 workers, and might close two raincoat plants elsewhere if unionized workers don't agree to concessions and the company can't improve orders.

In 1988, the company's top executives took Londontown private in a $178 million leveraged buyout. The company has since been purchased by Merrill Lynch Capital Partners, but continues to face a financial legacy of paying off high-interest junk bonds that financed the takeover.

Merrill Lynch Capital also holds ownership positions in Ann Taylor, the Simmons Co. and Eckerd Corp.

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