Tapestry Inc. has brought in Anna Bakst as chief executive officer and brand president of Kate Spade, effective Monday, the company announced last week. She succeeds Craig Leavitt, who exited the brand last year in the wake of the Tapestry acquisition.
Bakst will be responsible for all aspects of Kate Spade globally and will report to Tapestry CEO Victor Luis, who has been leading the brand in an interim capacity since Leavitt left, the company said. Bakst previously was group president at Michael Kors from 2003 until January last year. Before that, she led Donna Karan's shoe and accessory division from 1997 to 2001 and was president and general manager of footwear from 1992 to 1997, according to her LinkedIn page.
Tapestry (then still known as Coach) picked up Kate Spade for $2.4 billion last May and since began the kind of pullback from department stores that helped its Coach brand reclaim a more luxe position, including higher price tags.
When Tapestry snapped up Kate Spade last year, analysts saw it as a logical move that would help the company reach younger consumers that its resurgent banner Coach doesn't typically reach (although Coach is also making moves in that direction with its Selena Gomez design and marketing effort).
"Tapestry wants to take Kate Spade through the same process used to rebuild Coach," GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders said in comments emailed to Retail Dive last year, noting then that Kate Spade, like Coach, had become "too value-oriented and overly reliant on excessive, and margin-depleting, promotions" to drive sales.
In a statement on Friday, Luis said that Bakst's appointment is a "key step" in the company's work to evolve its Kate Spade unit. "She brings a rare combination of business acumen, directly related fashion experience and strong leadership skills to the company," he said. "Together with recently appointed Creative Director Nicola Glass, we now have the right senior management in place to lead the talented Kate Spade brand team and drive the business globally.”
Global growth is part of why the company acquired Kate Spade, Luis said last year. In its second quarter, the banner made net sales of $435 million — reflecting, in part, the strategic pullback in wholesale and online flash sales — as global same-store sales fell 7%, including an approximately 400-basis-point hit from a decline in global e-commerce.
But to succeed, the label will have to operate with a degree of separation from its parent and its sibling brands, Saunders warned earlier this year, noting that Tapestry in general has "a lot more reengineering to do." When it comes to Kate Spade, a lot of those goals are now in Bakst's hands.