Amy Williams, CEO of Citizens of Humanity, LLC, has announced that she and the other members of the executive team have purchased their employer company from its former investors (private equity company Berkshire Partners) and founder Jerome Dahan, who will remain with the company as a consultant.
As was further announced, Karen Phelps has been named creative director for all of Citizen’s brands, including Citizens of Humanity, AGOLDE, Goldsign, Fabric-Brand & Co., and Getting Back to Square One. Phelps joined the company with the spring/summer ’17 collections and since then led the design of the AGOLDE and Goldsign brands. Catherine Ryu, who served as creative director for the Citizens of Humanity brand up until now, has left the company.
Next to Amy Williams, the management board now consists of Federico Pagnetti, COO; Karen Phelps, Creative Director; Mario Borroi, COO International; Jared Freedman, Global Brand Director and Markus Hennes, VP Sales International.
We spoke to Williams about the new developments and what they mean to her everyday work.
Buying ”back“ a company from investors is a rather unusual step – why did you decide it’s better to have the Citizens of Humanity company back in your own hands?
Earlier this year, we engaged in a series of discussions with parties who were interested in investing/acquiring the company. We ultimately felt that the brands, our accounts, customers and the team at the company would be best served, in the long term with the management led buyout. The company’s business and brand equity is growing nicely during difficult times and we have done so with a very thoughtful and disciplined approach. We felt it’s best for our ultimate consumers to continue on that path and to work with our retail partners with the same values we have always had: great product, controlled full price distribution, unique branding, strong relationships with our retailers and a team culture of collaboration and evolution. And fortunately, we were able to put together a group of investors, who were familiar for with the brands, management team and the company.
How does the change affect your everyday work?
It does not dramatically change my every day work as the team and I have worked together for years. I think it does give us the opportunity to further enhance the culture of the organization and cultivate a culture that is open and collaborative, which I think helps generate the best possible ideas and environment.
Do you think that customers feel if Citizens is a privately-owned company? How does it show?
We think they do. We put all of our effort and energy into creating covetable products and maintaining our brand equity, we maintain our own production facility and laundry making the vast majority of our products in Los Angeles, we try to control the growth of our brands thoughtfully and not over saturate the market with our products and inventory.
Will there be any greater strategical changes now?
No, we will continue to focus on developing all of our brands and building them each to their potential. We will continue to build great relationships with best in class retail partners, continue to focus on direct to consumer and digital engagement, focus on strengths we have seen in some of the international markets and continue to evolve in all areas as the consumer and market demands.
As a management team, we have been working together for more than 8 years, and while we always evaluate our brands, business, the market and talent, overall the intention is to continue to execute the strategic direction we set. Most importantly, we are focused on building each of our unique brands to meet its potential as we believe that a house of brands that are each the “right” size is the most effective path for continuous growth-but business, professional development and to be able to serve the customers of this ever-changing global market place.
With Karen Phelps as the Creative Director for the company, we now have a design lead who understands how to develop and build each of our brands to their maximum potential. We are very excited about the strength and opportunities within Citizens of Humanity, the incredible growth we are experiencing in AGOLDE, the traction we are gaining with Goldsign. In addition, we will build Fabric Brand and Getting Back to Square One.