Patti Cazzato has come a long way from being employee No. 8 at Sam & Libby when the shoe company was in its early stages some 30 years ago.
But she is tapping into that experience and more as the new chief executive of NakedCashmere, a Southern California direct-to-consumer women’s and men’s cashmere line launched seven years ago by husband-and-wife team Bruce and Leslie Gifford.
Last year, Luxembourg-based buyout fund Legatus I acquired the cashmere brand’s parent company and started scouting for a CEO.
Soon, they heard about Cazzato, who most recently was the head of emerging businesses at Victoria’s Secret. In that job, she negotiated the lingerie company’s $18 million strategic investment last year in Frankies Bikinis, a swimwear and lifestyle brand started in Malibu, California, by Francesca Aiello and her mother, Mimi.
That deal got her noticed. It was done with The Sage Group, a Los Angeles investment bank that spent considerable time working out the finer details of the investment with Cazzato. When the new NakedCashmere owners reached out to The Sage Group about potential CEO candidates, managing director and partner Paul Altman quickly thought of Cazzato.
The new CEO said the job heading up parent company 360sweater and its subsidiary, NakedCashmere, intrigued her because it met her requirements for a satisfying work experience. “I dug deep and asked what have been the one or two experiences that have made me the happiest?” she said. “Those two things were being the founder of my own company and later working as the CEO of Timbuk2.”
Cazzato was remembering her time in 2007 when she founded Clary Sage Organics, an eco-friendly hand-sewn yoga apparel company and holistic wellness center in San Francisco. She started the company a year before the Great Recession and ended up having to self-finance her enterprise for seven years. It made her learn a thing or two about running a company during tough times.
That led to her next job in 2014 as chief executive of Timbuk2, a San Francisco company that locally manufactured various kinds of bags and backpacks with sustainability in mind. Then she transitioned to Victoria’s Secret nearly three years ago.
“My career has always been a combination of entrepreneurial adventures and some multibillion-dollar big businesses,” she shared.
In her new job at NakedCashmere, she will be taking the brand to the next level with global outreach, introducing new products, improving sustainability and exploring retail opportunities beyond the one store the Santa Monica-based NakedCashmere has in Aspen, Colorado. Until now, NakedCashmere has been primarily d-to-c with almost all its sales in the United States. “We are thinking of new ways of doing business,” Cazzato said.
First on the list is developing a new cashmere line to be knitted in Italy, instead of Mongolia, that will have modern heirloom qualities and sell for $500 to $2,000. “We love some of the beautiful craftsmanship we can get out of Italy,” the new CEO said. “We are going to be making sweaters that are one-of-a-kind and collectible.”
The Italian-made luxury-leaning collection will complement NakedCashmere’s essentials pieces of sweaters, skirts, dresses, ponchos, wraps, jogger pants, robes and pajamas that are made for women along with a men’s line of knits that sell for $200 to $650. “The Italian line will be launched under another label [for spring 2024] as a subbrand,” Cazzato said, noting she and her colleagues are working on a new label name. “This is a pivotal move for us right now creating heirlooms.”
Next will be making the brand more dimensional by adding items that can be worn with NakedCashmere products, such as jewelry or silk pieces. “I am not going to do a full collection [of jewelry or silk] but introduce beautiful concepts that go well with your cashmere,” she explained, adding that too will launch for spring 2024.
The company’s website is being redone to make it easier for international customers to buy online and have their purchases shipped overseas. Right now, most of NakedCashmere’s d-to-c sales are done in the United States, but there is a vast market to be explored for the brand’s merchandise.
Beyond online sales, Cazzato wants to develop relationships with luxury retailers, including boutiques and spas, where the customer can touch and feel the product. She is also exploring pop-up store opportunities to see in which direction company-owned retail could go. “There’s a lot to come,” Cazzato said. “It is going to be very exciting.”