Hilco Exploring Halston Options

The storied brand, which counts Sarah Jessica Parker as president and chief creative officer, is looking for some more cash or a new home.

Halston is looking for some more cash or a new home.

This story first appeared in the April 27, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The storied brand of the Seventies jet set, which counts Sarah Jessica Parker as president and chief creative officer, has hired an investment bank to explore its options, which could range from a cash infusion to a sale of the whole company, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Halston was acquired by Hilco Consumer Capital and Harvey Weinstein’s The Weinstein Co. in 2007. With the help of Tamara Mellon, founder and president of Jimmy Choo, the investors looked to reenergize the brand. At the time, Weinstein, co-chairman of the multimedia firm, boasted, “Our company has already had tremendous success turning the hit fashion show ‘Project Runway’ into a global brand and we see the same potential with Halston.”

And the brand did make a splash by hiring Parker who, in a twist for a celebrity-fashion tie-up, took both a key management position and an equity stake at the firm.

Parker’s high-profile and hands-on role raised some eyebrows in the industry and the actress acknowledged she’d have to learn the business as she went. “There is a huge amount I don’t know and I am very candid about that, and I am excited to learn,” she said. “There are going to be things that come up that I am equipped to deal with and answer and respond to, and there are things that I will be happily mentored on by [chief executive officer] Bonnie [Takhar]. I have no allergy to learning.”

But Parker’s association with Takhar doesn’t appear to have lasted. By November, it emerged that Takhar was leaving the company.

Ever since the days of its namesake designer, who died in 1990, the brand has struggled to regain its luster. The most recent incarnation has been no different, though the launch of Halston Heritage gave the business a new sense of promise.

The contemporary Heritage brand, sold in department stores, revisits some of the label’s most iconic looks, harkening back to the heyday of Studio 54.

The source said Heritage was getting traction and “was definitely a viable business,” but that the company needs growth capital and the investors don’t want to put more money in after four years.

But it could be a tough deal. “It’s a very complicated structure and dynamic at the board level,” the source said.

Richard Kaye, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Hilco Trading, Hilco Consumer Capital’s parent company, had no comment on the company’s future plans for Halston.

Hilco Consumer Capital is a private equity firm that has investments in a range of consumer firms, including Ellen Tracy, Caribbean Joe, Frederick’s of Hollywood Group, Polaroid and The Sharper Image.

The deal market has been heating up with the economy settling and credit easy to find. In January, Kellwood Co. bought contemporary sportswear brand Rebecca Taylor, and Perry Ellis International Inc. acquired Rafaella Apparel Group Inc. from Cerberus Capital Management.