But things are changing. AG recently announced that Glenn McMahon, who has worked with a number of prestigious fashion companies including St. John Knits, Dolce & Gabbana, Liz Claiborne, Donna Karan and Giorgio Armani, has been named the venture’s first chief executive officer.
Sam Ku, the owner’s son, will remain the company’s president.
“Glenn brings a wealth of experience to our executive team and is the right commercial leader for this time in our business,” Ku said in a statement. “He has led brands through periods of rapid growth and transformational change.”
Ku has been in the denim business for almost four decades. In 1985, he created Koos Manufacturing, now the only West Coast vertically integrated blue jeans factory. Inside its 400,000-square-foot facility just southeast of Los Angeles, the company in the past has made denim pants for several well-known labels including Lucky Brand, Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic and J. Crew. Koos Manufacturing also has a major blue jeans factory in Aguascalientes, Mexico, where 80 to 85 percent of the brand’s production is done by the facility’s 750 workers.
In 2000, Ku worked with Adriano Goldschmied, the man known as the Italian godfather of denim, to launch AG Jeans. Four years later, Goldschmied sold his trademark to Ku, who continued to grow the label into a contemporary brand. Now the AG cofounder has brought on McMahon to help expand into various denim and knitwear categories.
“I love the fact that this is a vertical operation, and the brand has been around for more than 20 years,” McMahon said. “Mr. Ku is a stickler for quality, make and fit and that resonated with the experiences I had previously.”
Along with its denim offerings, AG has been producing a limited selection of knit tops, which make up about 25 percent of the company’s apparel goods. But there will be a major knitwear expansion. In the last year, the company has purchased several Japanese knitting machines for its U.S. and Mexican facilities.
The knitwear expansion will be mostly in tops that can be worn with denim. “We are pigeonholed as a premium denim brand with a luxury customer who buys six pairs of bottoms and then goes across the street to buy luxury tops. Mr. Ku has a vision for the brand to expand beyond its current offerings,” McMahon said.
There will also be expanded denim classifications. “There is a tremendous opportunity in bottoms and to offer our consumer what they need. For example, the shorts classification for men has been on fire, and that was under-penetrated before the company recognized the need to grow that,” the new CEO said.
Retail expansion is also part of the plan. Currently, AG has 12 stores in locations including Hudson Yards, the SoHo district and the Upper West Side of New York City; Las Vegas; San Francisco, Beverly Hills and Newport Beach in California; as well as Dallas and Houston. There are also five outlets. “We are going to go forward and look at markets where our customers are already such as Marin and La Jolla in California. There is a lot of opportunity on the West Coast,” McMahon said.
McMahon recently has spent the past years working to grow or transform various well-known luxury brands. In California, McMahon is best remembered for his six years as the CEO of St. John Knits, the luxury label known for its suits worn by businesswomen and wealthy shoppers, which has experienced several rebrands.
When McMahon arrived in 2007 at the high-end knitwear company, actor Angelina Jolie was just exiting as the face of St. John. He brought on Karen Elson as the new model for a company while expanding into new categories. He led the sale of the company to the Lanvin Group in China.
After leaving St. John Knits in 2013, McMahon worked as a consultant and adviser to various owners and founders, helping to develop their businesses.
But he wanted to have more of a stake in a company. “I missed being a part of a team and building an organization and brand,” the new CEO said. “So, when this opportunity came up, it checked all the boxes. I am excited about being back in an operating role.”