NEW YORK — Liz Claiborne Inc. is now Fifth & Pacific Cos. Inc. and William L. McComb, its chief executive officer, is on the offensive.
Gone is the apparel manufacturer that put a generation of working women in pantsuits and grew into a portfolio-centric company with more than 30 brands. The Liz Claiborne brand was sold to J.C. Penney Co. Inc. last year while a majority of the ailing Mexx division was spun off along with a number of other assets, and the proceeds were used to cut the company’s debt load to $317 million from $698 million just over a year ago. The changes sparked the name change, which was revealed in January and will be made official today when the company’s stock will start trading under the ticker FNP.
Now the company revolves around Kate Spade, Juicy Couture and Lucky Brand — three brands that were bought with free cash flow provided by the Liz Claiborne business. The brands have grown into retailers in their own right, with domestic wholesale revenues accounting for only 10 to 15 percent of their U.S. top line.
“These businesses are in what I would call true start-up mode,” said a relaxed and upbeat McComb in an interview Monday. “There’s a tremendous amount of entrepreneurship in the businesses. The culture is these are hard-working, lean, fast-moving and superinnovative teams. They’ve inventing as they go along. They’re not running the bases of well-established processes in a big machine that’s been humming and running smoothly. They’re, all three, hungry, scrappy start-ups. We have three simultaneously early-stage companies.”
McComb finally seems to have positioned the company to his liking.
“The last six months have been very different,” the ceo said, a Fifth & Pacific logo spinning behind him on his desktop screen saver. “The best way to express it is a shift from being 75 percent defense to 75 percent offense.”
Kate Spade, with comparable sales per square foot at $989 for the past 12 months, is charging ahead, as Lucky Brand found its footing with sales of $448 a square foot.
New Juicy Couture product was introduced this year, the brand’s sales are at $661 a square foot and McComb said the business is about a year behind Lucky in its reinvention.
Like everyone else in the industry, McComb has taken note of Michael Kors Holdings Ltd.’s initial public offering and its market capitalization of $7.75 billion and said his company can grab a bigger part of the booming handbag business.
“[The consumer’s] putting more of her apparel and accessories dollars into what I would call ‘investment-grade handbags,’” McComb said. “I think it has another five- to 10-year run in it. I see all ships rising with the growth of fast-growing brands like Kate and Michael Kors. I think you’ll see Juicy stake out some really nice territory there over the next two to three years.”
The sweet spot for the investment-grade handbag is the $298 to $498 price range, he said.
McComb said Fifth & Pacific’s results would ultimately speak for themselves.
“There were some tough times,” he admitted of his tenure. “I’ve never minded being underestimated. I would much rather be the underdog in a situation or to be discounted and misunderstood.…It’s very important that as a lead of a company that you lean into a future, that you actually are driving an organization toward something and not from something.”
EXCLUSIVE: @tomford is opening its first-ever beauty store. The boutique, which opens November 20 in London’s Covent Gardens, was designed with the over-the-top glam Ford is known for. Read the full story on WWD.com, link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews (📷: Simon Wagner) #TomFordBeauty
New York-based DJ @harleyvnewton threw a party to celebrate the holiday collection of her dress and pajama line @hvn at the Ladurée Beverly Hills. It Girls @katebosworth, @rashidajones and more joined in on the fun, which included cocktails, croque monsieur sandwiches and a photo booth. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com)
For the holidays, @Burberry partnered with 20-year-old artist @blondeymccoy on a series of three outdoor murals in downtown Manhattan. The murals are McCoy’s interpretation of a Christmas eve party, the idea of charity and the spirit of family. His third mural, pictured here, is the most personal. The image depicts McCoy’s grandparents and father in London’s Trafalgar Square in the Seventies. “My work often features lots of sentimental objects.” #wwdeye
For spring 2018, designers applied bold colors and cartoonish motifs on everything from sneakers and belts to key chains. See all the top men’s accessories trends on WWD.com. #wwdtrends (📷: George Chinsee; Prop Styling by @rnasti; Market Editor: @luiscampuzano)
The @dior-sponsored @guggenheim international gala pre-party has a history of drawing cool-girl musical acts to serenade the crowd –– and last night was no exception. @haimtheband performed songs both new and old, and lured a star-studded audience with the likes of Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Mamoudou Athie and more. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
In a partnership between the @metopera and the @englishnationalopera, “Marnie” was born. The opera, with costumes sponsored by @mrporterlive, is an adaptation of the 1961 thriller by Winston Graham. Arianne Phillips, who created the costumes, is no rookie: She’s styled Madonna for her tours and created costumes for a myriad of films in the past. Read WWD’s interview with Phillips, where she talks about her inspiration for the opera’s costumes on WWD.com #wwdfashion
@barneysnyc took a different approach to their holiday windows this year. Instead of Christmas decor, Barneys tapped @thehaasbrothers to tell a story of positivity, gratitude and inclusivity via heartwarming silliness and humor. “It’s about kids and it’s about coming together and being family and loving each other,” said Simon Haas. #wwdfashion (📷: @joshuascottphoto)
Beauty influencer @kandeejohnson makes her foray into hair care with a collaboration with @ogx_beauty — making it the first time that OGX has teamed up for a product creation. The collab includes shampoos and conditioners in three scents. At 39 and a mom, Johnson is a different profile than the emerging social media stars, but is considered one of the pioneers of the digital beauty influencer world. Read WWD’s interview with her on wwd.com, including the strangest beauty product she’s ever tried #wwdbeauty