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Theory's Andrew Rosen Relinquishes CEO Role

The founder will stay on as an advisor at the Fast Retailing-owned company.
Andrew Rosen | Photo: Amy Troost
  • Lauren Sherman

NEW YORK, United States — Theory's Andrew Rosen is stepping down from his day-to-day role as CEO of the New York-based brand. Owner Fast Retailing, the Japanese group behind Uniqlo, announced the change Tuesday.

Rosen will remain in an advisory role, spending approximately half of his time on Theory and the other half on other pursuits. He already backs several labels not owned by Fast Retailing, including Rag & Bone and Alice + Olivia, and is likely to continue mentoring and investing in emerging brands within — and perhaps outside of — the fashion sector.

At Theory and Helmut Lang, which he also oversees, Rosen will be replaced by Dinesh Tandon, who ran the Asia arm of the Theory business before moving to New York in 2017 to take on a more encompassing role as global chief operating officer. According to a release, Tandon will work closely with Rosen and Theory chairman Kazumi Yanai on the transition.

"I wish to thank Andrew for his significant contributions to Theory and the Fast Retailing Group over the past 10 years," Tadashi Yanai, chairman, president and chief executive of Fast Retailing, said in a statement. "I am pleased to see this succession in leadership as Andrew begins a new phase of his career, and I am confident that Dinesh will build on his solid experience at Theory and demonstrate his capability in powerfully evolving the company's global business."

Long credited as a pioneer in what is now known as contemporary fashion, Rosen co-founded Theory in 1997 as a well-priced, well-made alternative to the minimalist suiting styles that ruled the runways at the time. While he sold a majority interest in Theory to Link International in 2003, he stayed on as CEO. In 2009, Fast Retailing, partial owner of what had become known as Link Theory Holdings, acquired it wholly.

In the decade since Fast Retailing solidified its ownership of Theory, the retail landscape has changed dramatically, squeezing middle-market contemporary brands to contend with both fast fashion and digitally driven direct-to-consumer labels. Theory was partially protected because it was such an important account for retailers, but also because it sells reliable suiting and workwear appropriate for more formal office cultures. Today, Theory is a global brand, with sales estimated by market sources to be just north of $1 billion, although Fast Retailing is thought to have lofty growth ambitions.

Over the years, Rosen has tested several different strategies, for a time installing high-fashion-minded Belgian designer Olivier Theyskens as creative director, then taking a more commercial approach by bringing back original Theory designer Lisa Kulson. Most recently, he hired Francesco Fucci, a former design director at The Row, whose particular flavour of minimalism has brought a refinement to the collections. Rosen has also experimented with sub-brands, creating Theory 2.0, a capsule designed and built by an in-house team of rising stars from across the company, in 2017.

According to a 2013 New Yorker article, Rosen only planned to stay on for one year when the company was first acquired in 2003. Sixteen years later, he's finally making a change.

“This is an exciting time for Theory and for me personally,” Rosen said in a statement. “I am incredibly proud of having created this company, this brand and this culture. My new role will allow me to provide mentorship and advice to the team at Theory, and will also give me an opportunity to pursue other interests and passions within and beyond the industry. I am grateful to Mr. Yanai for the leadership and support he has shown to the company over the years.”

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