NEW YORK — So much for the love affair between Tommy and Karl.
After a much ballyhooed launch, Tommy Hilfiger Corp., which acquired Lagerfeld's business in January 2005, pulled the plug on Lagerfeld's New York operation on Thursday.
Hilfiger, which was bought for $1.6 billion by Apax Partners last month, said it plans to consolidate the Lagerfeld operations into a sole Paris headquarters. As a result, the highly anticipated Karl Lagerfeld women's and men's contemporary collection, based here, will be discontinued following its fall 2006 retail debut. The Paris headquarters will continue to design, produce and sell the Lagerfeld Collection designer line (formerly called Lagerfeld Gallery).
The abrupt closure of the Karl Lagerfeld line, which was headquartered at 601 West 26th Street, will result in the elimination of 25 jobs, including that of Ann Acierno, president of new business development at Hilfiger, who oversaw the Lagerfeld business. Melanie Ward, who served as creative director of the Lagerfeld contemporary line, was a consultant, and her role may be ending along with the collection.
All global licensing will continue to be managed from New York by Hilfiger's established licensing organization. Lagerfeld will remain a wholly owned subsidiary of Hilfiger.
The designer's arrival in New York was heralded by a major fall runway show in February at the close of fashion week. Karl Lagerfeld offered a limited-edition capsule group this spring exclusively to Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, consisting of about 28 women's and 23 men's styles, with denim as a key component. The Neiman's and Bergdorf's line was created to build excitement for the larger fall launch.
Hilfiger and Lagerfeld originally had high hopes for the Karl Lagerfeld line, which was expected to be a big-volume business. "I'm very much into large distribution," said Lagerfeld last year. "With haute couture, I proved that I can design the most expensive things, and with H&M, I can do the less expensive things. This will be in the middle of all that."
Fred Gehring, chief executive officer of Hilfiger, couldn't be reached for comment Thursday, but said in a statement: "We believe strongly in the enormous potential of the Karl Lagerfeld brand. Karl is one of the great design icons of our time. However, the management of dual headquarters in both Paris and New York is complex and specifically at odds with the company's core mission following the acquisition by Apax Partners to focus resources on our core activity of further developing the Tommy Hilfiger brand."
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