The investors behind Ellen Tracy and Halston are uniting in a separate company, trying to answer the question of how to return luster to a once-iconic brand.
Upon closing the deal to buy Ellen Tracy on Wednesday, the team that bought the bridge brand from Liz Claiborne Inc. for $42.3 million formed Fashionology Group LLC. The new firm will not only run Ellen Tracy, but also acquire CJ Apparel LLC from Hilco Consumer Capital. Hilco separately owns Halston with the Weinstein Co.
Fashionology Group was formed by Windsong Brands LLC and Hilco Consumer Capital, along with Radius Partners and the private investment office of Barry Sternlicht. Between Ellen Tracy and CJ Apparel’s best-known moderate brand Caribbean Joe, which will be run as independent entities, Fashionology expects revenues will exceed $200 million at wholesale.
William Sweedler, Windsong chairman and chief executive officer, and Jamie Salter, ceo of Hilco Consumer Capital, will serve as co-chairs of Fashionology, in which advisers and investors include Sternlicht, Marvin Traub and advertising executive David Lipman. Other industry veterans will join the group soon, according to the company.
Marketing will play a large role in relaunching Ellen Tracy, which does about $100 million in wholesale volume, and the company has enlisted the Lipman Agency, which said it is inspired by “memories of the years when Cindy Crawford was the muse of the Ellen Tracy ad campaigns.”
Traub will be chairman of Ellen Tracy LLC, a newly formed firm that will run the core bridge sportswear business. The company will appoint a new ceo and creative director for Ellen Tracy soon.
“Our goal is to pay tribute to the original DNA of Ellen Tracy and bring back the greatness from the Linda Allard era,” Sweedler said. “In addition, our new partners, Jamie Salter and the Hilco Consumer Capital team, are certain to add great value to the brand-building process as evidenced by their early success at Halston.”
Additionally, the investment group formed Brand Matter LLC to manage, market and license the intellectual property for Ellen Tracy and Caribbean Joe. Sweedler and Salter will initially manage Brand Matter. The company will look for licensing partners, particularly for international opportunities.
This story first appeared in the April 10, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“From an expense point of view, there will be a lot of savings, which is important in business, particularly today,” Salter said. “A lot of people are pulling back on marketing and strategic expenses, but we will be aggressive on all fronts because in troubled times, the more aggressive you are, you come out on top when the economy recovers.”
Both Fashionology and Brand Matter will grow independently as separate platforms in which the investors are looking to make additional acquisitions. “I always look for iconic brands that have good brand names among consumers,” added Salter.
Windsong had owned a minority interest with Hilco in CJ Apparel, which includes the Caribbean Joe Island Supply Co., CJ, CJ Apparel, Havana Jack Cafe, Jamaica Bay and Periscope brands. The only synergies between CJ Apparel’s moderate portfolio and Ellen Tracy will be on the back end with finance and distribution, said Sweedler, who added that his interest in CJ Apparel was in the management team, which returned the company to profitability since it changed hands in 2006. All of the management team will stay in place, except chief operating officer Ken Ragland, who will be promoted to chief operating officer of all of Fashionology.
The firm declined to disclose the purchase price for CJ Apparel.