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The BoF Podcast: Theory Founder Andrew Rosen on Fashion’s Past — and Future

The fashion retail pioneer speaks with BoF Chief Correspondent Lauren Sherman about identifying a gap in US and international markets for contemporary clothing brands and investing in emerging designers.

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NEW YORK, United States — Theory founder Andrew Rosen didn't think he would end up working in the fashion industry. As an avid golfer, Rosen spent most of his time at college putting on the green until his uncle encouraged him to go work for his father's company, Puritan Manufacturing Co. He spent many years there helping to bolster the Calvin Klein Jeans business alongside his father. However, in 1983 he found himself assuming the arduous role of CEO after his father passed away.

Ten years later Rosen co-founded Theory — a brand that would later catapult him to contemporary fashion pioneer status — with Elie Tahari. Rosen and Tahari’s combined passion for textile innovation led them to use woven fabrics like Lycra to make fashionable yet comfortable office workwear.

“I wanted to be an expert in fitting, sourcing and manufacturing Lycra, that was the thing we were going to own as a company,” he said. “In the beginning people were very sceptical, but once we started making clothes and people started putting them on it was just incredible how fast the company grew.”

He also provided designer-level quality at attractive rates, a standout quality of the brand. The middle ground — non-generic, not ready to wear — transformed the brand into the beacon of “contemporary fashion,” which went on to set a precedent for American department stores over the next 20 years.

In this episode with BoF Chief Correspondent Lauren Sherman, Rosen delves into some of his career highs and lows, his role as a mentor to the next generation of young designers and his predictions for the future of fashion.

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