Thimio Sotos joined premium denim maker J Brand as chief financial officer, and the veteran apparel executive has set his sights on growing the business in the United States and abroad.

Downtown L.A.-based J Brand, which is known for igniting the current skinny jean craze, announced the hiring of Sotos on May 17. He previously served as the chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Metropark USA Inc., a specialty clothing retailer headquartered in Los Angeles.

Sotos said he joined J Brand because of the opportunity to help expand the company’s business, and he’s focusing first on improving online sales.

“The top of the list from a new business opportunity perspective is our e-commerce business,” said Sotos, who also spent more than 12 years at New York’s Jones Apparel Group Inc. “It’s untapped, and there’s a great deal of potential there to take our brand to customers and present it in a way that works alongside our wholesale and retail customers.”

He’s joining J Brand at a significant time in the company’s history: New York private equity firm Irving Place Capital and Century City-based Creative Artists Agency acquired a majority interest in the jean maker about four months ago.

“CAA plays a major role with their resources and branding capabilities,” said Jeff Rudes, J Brand chief executive. “We are not going to look to endorse our jeans with entertainers, but we can do events with them and other collaborations.”

Rudes said the company’s U.S. sales are up 40 percent to 50 percent from last year, while its international sales have grown by 50 percent compared with last year.

Going Denim

Vintage retailer Cameron Silver is debuting a premium denim label named after his Melrose Avenue boutique Decades.

Silver announced plans to launch Decades Denim in May. The line of premium jeans is set to hit store shelves in October, in time for the holiday season, and will sell for $99 to $129. The line will include 11 different styles, including boot cut, trouser and straight-leg styles.

Silver acknowledges that a denim collection doesn’t quite fit with his image as a purveyor of high-end used apparel, but he said that he’s been looking for a new challenge.

“I had been yearning to do something where I was the creative director,” Silver said. “It was a matter of figuring out the right vehicle and this was the right vehicle. I can change how people wear denim and elevate it a little bit.”

Silver opened his Decades boutique in 1997, selling upscale used fashions dating from the 1930s through the ’90s. He then opened adjoining store DecadesTwo in 2007, which sells clothing dating from the 1990s to present day.

But Silver won’t be navigating the world of premium denim by himself. He’s formed a partnership with Jack McCue, the owner of downtown L.A.-based premium denim maker Genetic Denim, and Angelique Soave, a financial analyst who also serves as executive vice president and chief merchandising officer.

Silver called Soave one of the best-dressed women he knows. He added that one of Decades Denim’s offerings, a skinny pocketless jean, is named after her.

Silver said Decades Denim is planning to launch a men’s line in the spring, and will eventually offer other items such as dresses.

“The idea is to turn this into a lifestyle collection that is denim driven,” he said.

Rumble and Tumble

Jakks Pacific Inc. unveiled action figures for its Ultimate Fighting Championship line last week, and the Malibu toymaker did it on a big stage.

Jakks showed off the figures of popular UFC fighters such as Chuck Liddell, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto Machida at the UFC fan expo in Las Vegas.

Jakks signed a four-year licensing agreement with UFC in 2008 to develop a line of collector-focused action figures and other items such as the UFC Octagon, the ring where the fighters square off. The deal with the UFC came after the company lost a major revenue source, the World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., which moved its action-figure license to El Segundo toy giant Mattel Inc.

However, Jakks has found success with its UFC line thanks to the popularity of its mixed martial arts combat, which combines punching, kicking and wrestling.

Net sales for Jakks’ traditional toy segment for the first quarter of this year dropped by 29 percent to $66.5 million compared with the same period in 2009. However, the company said the overall decline was partly offset by an increase in unit sales for the UFC action figures, although it didn’t break out specific details.

Staff reporter Alexa Hyland can be reached at ahyland@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 235.

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