Escada founder passes the torch

Wolfgang Ley, founder and chief executive of German fashion house Escada is to step down from his position on 31 January 2006, according to WWD. Ley, who founded the group with his late wife Margaretha in 1976, will be passing the torch to Frank Rheinboldt, the current ceo of Escada Group’s Primera AG. He will, however, not be relinquishing his say in the company’s development and public image. As creative chairman of the group, Ley will continue to influence the brand’s direction in this ambassadorial role.

“I am in charge of building new collections, influencing the store layout and store design, scouting the world for new design talents, especially in Russia, India and China, and making sure that the message of the brand is consistent,” Ley told WWD. He emphasized that the decision to step down as chief executive was entirely voluntary. “I was 67 years old, and at the beginning of January, I was sitting in my office, thinking, ‘I have a contract until 2008 as CEO.’ I wanted to initiate the recruitment process.”

Ley decided on Rheinboldt as his successor after reviewing a list of his own candidates. Rheinboldt had a proven track record of turning the Primera business around. The company includes the brands Laurel, Apriori and Cavita as well as the Biba retail chain. “From an operating point, the company is profitable. We are growing,” Ley said in response to why he was not sitting out the term of his contract.

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“I thought, ‘What is the biggest gap in the company?'” he said. “I know the DNA of the brand and I have built most of the markets. I can support the brand with my know-how of different cultures.” Ley also said that he would be working more closely on developing advertising campaigns, an example of which is the new campaign for spring, featuring Linda Evangelista shot by Steven Meisel.