Person of the Year
Executive Chair and CEO, KnitWell Group
Lizanne Kindler is the Executive Chair and Chief Executive Officer of KnitWell Group, a multi-brand retail operating company comprised of the iconic American apparel brands, Ann Taylor, Haven Well Within, Lane Bryant, LOFT and Talbots. Together, these brands generate more than $4 billion in sales on an annual basis making KnitWell one of the largest specialty apparel companies in the United States.
Ms. Kindler returned to Talbots as President in August of 2012 when the company was purchased by private equity firm, Sycamore Partners. She was promoted to CEO nine months later. In January 2021, Ms. Kindler was also named Executive Chair and Interim CEO of Ann Taylor, LOFT and Lane Bryant, collectively known as Ascena. These brands are also part of the Sycamore Partners portfolio. In May 2023, KnitWell Group was established to formalize a best-in-class, multi-brand operating model. KnitWell brings all of the brands together to leverage and create best practices, but also recognizes each one for its unique characteristics and customers.
Under Ms. Kindler’s leadership, the Talbots brand has returned to healthy levels of sales and profitability, opened new stores, developed new concepts and entered new product categories. The company currently has more than 8,000 associates and operates more than 500 retail stores across the United States. And despite the challenging retail environment, Talbots has continued to thrive thanks to a strong commitment to product innovation, operational excellence and technology investments.
Ann Taylor, LOFT and Lane Bryant have more than 20,000 associates and over 1,200 stores across the United States. The company was acquired during the bankruptcy process in December of 2020. In the last 12 months, Ms. Kindler and the leadership team have generated double-digit increases in EBITDA and returned a significant amount of capital to shareholders while putting these brands back on a path to financial health and stability.
Ms. Kindler started her career at Ann Taylor Stores Corporation, where she spent 15 years in various leadership roles. She was instrumental in leading the foundational stages of their ecommerce business, as well as launching Ann Taylor Loft. Ms. Kindler left Ann Taylor in 2008 to come to Talbots the first time as the Senior Vice President of Merchandising. Two years later, she worked with Kohl’s as the Executive Vice President of Product Development.
Ms. Kindler is a well-respected leader in the industry and in the community. For the last three years, Talbots was named as one of the Top 10 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts by The Commonwealth Institute and the Globe Magazine. She has been instrumental in cementing Talbots status as a brand with purpose by leading the brand’s partnership with Dress for Success, which has raised nearly $7 million since its inception in 2014. Ms. Kindler served four years as an Expert-In-Residence for Babson College’s WIN (Women Innovating Now) Lab, an accelerator for women entrepreneurs. She was on the Advisory Board of the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University for three years. And in January of 2020, Ms. Kindler was named to the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, a position she continues to hold today.
A native of Denmark, Ms. Kindler graduated from the Copenhagen Business School with a BA in Economics.