Neil Kus­netz Joins Ova­dia & Sons As Pres­i­dent

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY JEAN E. PALMIERI

The former pres­i­dent of Robert Gra­ham will han­dle the day-to-day op­er­a­tions of the brand founded by Shi­mon and Ariel Ova­dia.

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 cloth­ingskewed 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.”

Neil Kus­netz joins Ova­dia& Sons.

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