Jewelry maker Carolee leaves Stamford for New York

By Kevin Zimmerman

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Carolee LLC, the jewelry and women’s accessories firm owned by Brooks Brothers Group, is exiting its longtime home in Stamford for Manhattan and Brooklyn, effective Dec. 1.

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-3-13-00-pmThe move comes as a result of Carolee’s Oct. 28 purchase of Brooklyn-based designer jewelry brand Alexis Bittar for an undisclosed amount. That deal was struck between Brooks Brothers, the company’s namesake designer Bittar, and private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners LLC, which took a 50 percent stake in the jewelry brand in 2012.

Jill Maier, president of Carolee – which Brooks Brothers acquired in 2001 and which develops and markets licensed jewelry for Lauren by Ralph Lauren, ABS by Allen Schwartz, and Brooks Brothers, among others – will oversee both the Carolee and Alexis Bittar brands, which are expected to remain independent of each other. Maier was not available for comment.

Most of Carolee’s Stamford-based staff will be relocated to either Alexis Bittar’s Brooklyn headquarters or Brooks Brothers’ operations in Manhattan. Carolee employs about 100 people, having laid off 47 at the end of June as it consolidated its distribution and receiving operations in a Brooks Brothers Group-owned facility in Clinton, N.C. How many Carolee workers were willing to commute to New York was unclear at press time; several employees had apparently decided not to make the move.

The Bittar acquisition appears to reflect an increased focus by Brooks Brothers on the women’s market. In 2014, the retailer named Zac Posen as creative director of its women’s mainline apparel and accessories; his first collection for the company was released in spring 2016.

alexis-bittar Alexis Bittar. Photo by Bob Rozycki

Carolee was founded in 1972 by Greenwich-based designer Carolee Friedlander, who left her post as president and chief executive officer in 2004, whereupon she became a founding partner and CEO of AccessCircles, a by-invitation global community of women providing information and guidance in the areas of health and wellness, finance, and life balance. She is also an independent director at DSW Inc.

Carolee produces a range of products, including semiprecious stones, glass beads, hand enamel, pearls and crystal; its jewelry is sold in the U.S., Canada, Italy, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Since 2007, Carolee’s Stamford headquarters has been at 88 Hamilton Ave., which WWE recently purchased. It also serves as the main office of the nonprofit organization AmeriCares.

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