Since assuming the reins as North American chief executive officer of Zadig & Voltaire, Kristen Sosa’s top priorities are to expand the brand’s retail footprint, increase its accessories business, and raise overall awareness of the Paris-based brand.
A 28-year industry veteran, Sosa spent 23 years at Saks Fifth Avenue, rising to executive vice president and chief merchant for Gilt Groupe and Saks Off Fifth and was senior vice president, merchandising and digital for the full-line side. She later joined Olivela as chief merchant and senior adviser and became president, Americas at Marc Jacobs.
After doing some consulting, Sosa realized that she enjoyed all aspects of being at a brand. “I missed running a business and leading a team,” said Sosa, who joined Zadig & Voltaire this spring.
Sosa said she was familiar with the Zadig brand from her years of traveling to Europe. “I always shopped the brand, I loved the aesthetic and vibe of the brand and it was a brand that always resonated with my style,” she said. She said the Zadig & Voltaire customer is both a younger, edgier fashion girl and a sophisticated shopper.
One of her top priorities is to expand the brand’s own retail footprint in North America, where it has 30 freestanding stores. The brand views Texas as a big opportunity for retail stores, and will add stores in Manhattan’s Tribeca (in June) and Los Angeles and Georgetown, Washington D.C., later this year. Stores that carry the brand include Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom.
Remy Baume, Zadig & Voltaire’s global CEO, said she looks for Sosa to continue accelerating its North American business growth, and particularly the accessories segment.
“In addition to her significant experience in our luxury industry in the region, her strong leadership style finely complements that of our management committee. Kristen will be instrumental in increasing the share of Zadig & Voltaire’s accessories category in North America to match the level of Europe, i.e., 50 percent,” said Baume.
At present, accessories account for 30 percent of the North American business and the company is looking to get it to 45 percent of the business over the next two to three years, said Sosa. The accessories comprise handbags, which she says “have been explosive,” as well as footwear, small leather goods and jewelry. Handbags retail from about $400 to $900, with some embellished and studded bags going as high as $1,000. Zadig & Voltaire recently introduced a new Le Cecilia bag, which averages in the $600 range but goes up to $1,000 and has been very strong.
The third priority is to increase brand awareness through social channels, VIP partners, and the image campaign established by headquarters. “The digital channel is going to drive it,” she said.
In North America, retail (owned stores and concessions) accounts for 60 percent of the business, digital is about 30 percent, and wholesale is 10 percent. The company declined to reveal North American and overall volume.
Turning to ready-to-wear, Sosa said dresses have been very strong, and tops are doing well. “Our blazers are the strength of our business,” she said.
She said summer deliveries have just started hitting the selling floor and are selling briskly. “We’re seeing a nice increase in our retail channels. Over the last couple of years, the brand has seen strong year-over-year growth. In a tough climate, we are seeing really strong results,” said Sosa.