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.”
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews