Underwear brand Tommy John announced Wednesday morning that Cheryl Abel-Hodges, former CEO of Calvin Klein, has been appointed as the brand’s new CEO.
Abel-Hodges brings over three decades of experience in the underwear space, including as president of Calvin Klein owner PVH’s Underwear Group, along with stints at Ralph Lauren, Izod and Liz Claiborne. The announcement comes just a year after another former PVH executive — Manny Chirico, who was previously CEO of PVH — joined Tommy John’s board of directors.
Tommy John has been going through a period of rapid growth, forming a joint venture with private equity firm LNK Partners last year. It has doubled its wholesale footprint in the last 12 months and plans to expand its retail presence by another 40% by the end of the year, Abel-Hodges said.
“Growth is my first priority,” Abel-Hodges told Glossy. “Tommy John is an amazing brand with industry-leading products. I’m excited to join the team, continue to innovate within the product space and expand our wholesale presence.”
The underwear category is crowded and competitive. In 2018, Tommy John launched women’s underwear to directly compete with brands like Aerie, and it is now on track to be around 50% of the brand’s business in 2024. The company’s annual revenue is above $100 million, and Chirico said last year that Tommy John is profitable. Men’s underwear was a $37 billion sector last year and is expected to grow this year.
Including brands like Adore Me, Mack Weldon and MeUndies, many of the most successful underwear brands to launch in the last 10 years were originally DTC-focused. But the entire DTC sector has begun to shift toward a hybrid structure inclusive of wholesale.
Research conducted by Glossy and its sister site Modern Retail in April found that a larger number of DTC brands have shifted or are planning to shift more resources to wholesale this year, citing less volatility in the sector.
Tommy John is one of those brands. In the last year alone, Tommy John has begun selling in major retailers like Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Nordstrom. Abel-Hodges said she expects the brand’s wholesale partnerships to keep growing throughout the year despite increased competition in the underwear space. The brand already has a presence in more than 3,000 stores across the country.
“The underwear category overall is a very competitive space with both heritage and DTC brands,” Abel-Hodges said. “But over the last 15 years, Tommy John has built brand equity in comfort and innovation. It’s the product and unique brand tone of voice that sets us apart. Tommy John is a disruptor brand, and there is so much opportunity ahead of us for continued growth.”