Original Penguin Spreads Its Wings

Chris Kolbe is a master of change. Now president of Original Penguin, Kolbe essentially runs the division for its parent company, Perry Ellis International. Original Penguin was a 1950s icon—-the penguin logo appeared on Munsingwear Penguin knit sport shirts for men. Eventually, its popularity faded, and Perry Ellis International later acquired the brand. Chris Kolbe was working in merchandising at retailer Urban Outfitters when he conceived the idea of rejuvenating the penguin—-but with a new twist and for a new market. Starting with a few new shirts, which sold out almost immediately, the “new” Original Penguin began to grow, and Perry Ellis tapped Kolbe to complete the transformation as head of a new venture team. Kolbe recognizes that the fashion industry is a hotbed of change—-and any clothing company that wants to survive must embrace innovation. He also understands that change takes time and patience.

  1. Why has it been important for Perry Ellis International to give freedom to a new venture team in order to relaunch Original Penguin?
  2. In what respects does Original Penguin represent a cultural change for Perry Ellis?

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