Alvin Valley has returned to the helm of his namesake company, which has been plagued by design and distribution problems since The Moret Group purchased a half-stake two years ago.
This story first appeared in the January 28, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Once any young designer gets in a partnership with a large corporation, you can lose sight of everything,” Valley said. “It got too big too fast. There was so much money available to us that we got overwhelmed, and there were many layers between me and the product. I got so distracted doing so many other things, only working two or three days a week, that I didn’t notice that the fit and design quality were changed. The image went from young designer to more mature.”
By taking the reins again as full-time designer, Valley hopes to stop the declines caused by flawed fits and merchandising.
In partnership with the $300 million Moret Group, Valley has been working full time for the last month, designing the Alvin Valley Collection, As Is by Alvin Valley and Alvin, a contemporary collection launching at Nordstrom and Macy’s this spring.
Valley, dubbed “the king of pants,” has downsized his staff, cutting 12 to 15 design, sales and merchandising posts. Joann Langer, who was named president in 2006, left last spring, Valley said. Valley rehired his original production team, reinstating his original patterns and fits, and now has a group of about seven working with him at his showroom at 623 Broadway in Manhattan. Valley is also returning the brand’s focus to pants rather than the other categories the brand had expanded into. Moret is still handling back office design.
“Moret brought in a few people to take us from cult pant status to a major brand, but instead we lost our DNA and our core customer,” Valley said. “We took a product from a specific fit to a commercial fit.”
The Moret Group in January 2006 bought a half-stake in Alvin Valley for about $23 million from Valley’s business partner Richard Rosenthal, who started the business with him in 2002.
“We had a meeting of the minds and said ‘let’s go back to what was successful,'” said Gary Herwitz, executive vice president of The Moret Group. “Now we are getting back to the roots of the brand.”
The brand is carried in about 250 doors compared with an estimated 400 when the line was acquired. More important than the quantity of the doors, Valley said, was the quality of those lost, including Fred Segal, Ron Herman, Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue.
“We weren’t any longer selling to the edgier, fashion-y stores,” said Valley, who hopes to regain the accounts now that he is back designing full time starting with the fall 2008 collection. “Not having that retail visibility really hurt.”
The core brand has experienced about a 50 percent volume loss in the past two years (the company declined to quantify specific volume), offset partly by the launch of Alvin, Herwitz said. The dress cycle exacerbated the losses for the pants-based business.