NEW YORK — Every luxury brand seems headed to China these days, but Ports 1961 has shifted into reverse.
The $200 million sportswear brand, which originated in Canada in 1961, was purchased by Chinese entrepreneur Alfred Chan in the early Nineties. It is widely recognized by Chinese consumers and operates flagships in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Chengdu. Now Ports is looking to make a U.S. comeback.
The brand recently set up a sleek 10,000-square-foot showroom at 601 West 26th Street, which will serve as its North American base and from which company executives hope to set up a wholesale and retail network that could see five U.S. flagships in the next five years.
Ports is no newcomer to the U.S. market. Founded in 1961 in Canada by Luke Tanabe, Ports International had its high point in the late Eighties when there were 35 freestanding Ports stores in Canada and 15 in the U.S., including a unit on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. After Chan acquired the company in the early Nineties, he decided to concentrate on the Asian market and closed down Ports’ North American distribution points. Ports currently operates about 200 retail stores in China.
“We have been talking about a makeover for about five years and then two years ago, we decided to bring it back home to Canada and North America,” said Tia Cibani, creative director and managing director. “Alfred Chan agreed to the expansion. I felt it was important to have a presence in New York. Being in China is very important, but as a support to that, we needed to build a presence here, too.”
Cibani has been overseeing the repositioning campaign, beginning with the renaming of Ports International to Ports 1961 in 2003. Cibani joined Ports in 1990, working with DSquared’s Dean and Dan Caten, who were heading the design team then. She moved to Xiamen, China, in 1993 to oversee the development of the brand there, and only returned in 2003 to head the North American relaunch. She is now based in New York.
For its relaunch, the company hired Bruce Baas as vice president of sales. Baas joined from Michael Kors, where he was vice president of global retail and the women’s collection for four years. Prior to Kors, Baas was at Bergdorf Goodman for 13 years, rising to vice president and divisional merchandise manager of designer sportswear. Ports also brought in Jacquelyn Wenzel as merchandiser and general manager. Wenzel previously had her own merchandising firm.Company executives quietly started tinkering with the Ports formula, updating its looks and quality. Where once Ports’ main focus was on suits and coordinating ensembles, now the emphasis is on fashionable items. The fall collection is called Reverence, and key pieces include a silk box pleat dress with crystal embellishment, a cotton trenchcoat and a wool and polyamide strapless dress with a full skirt and crinoline underlay. Wholesale price points range from $75 to $800.
“There is a Theory customer who is looking for the next step into luxury and style, but doesn’t want to spend on Prada or Gucci yet,” Wenzel explained.
In the next three-and-a-half years, Baas projected a U.S. wholesale volume of about $10 million. The company plans to build the wholesale distribution while slowly establishing a network of freestanding stores. Since 2003, Ports opened three stores in Canada, and there are plans to open two U.S. flagships, on the East and West Coasts, in the next year. By 2010, the company expects to have five units in the U.S. Baas added that the line targets upscale specialty stores such as Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Mitchells of Westport, Conn., and Marissa Collections in Naples, Fla.
When asked about Ports 1961’s target client, Cibani pointed to a little red, square-shaped Virgin Atlantic magazine titled Jetrosexual. “This line is for the ‘jetrosexual,’ the global soul,” she said. “It’s for a very easy lifestyle, for a woman who is international.”
There'll be no rest for those headed to Europe for men's, as Paris just closed the gap with Milan. According to a provisional calendar released by the Chambre Syndicale, Paris Men's Week will now open a day earlier on January 16. See new highlights on the official lineup on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
BREAKING: Jonathan Saunders is leaving @DVF. The designer has resigned from his position as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, the company said in a statement on Friday. At the time of his hire, von Furstenberg said Saunders’ arrival symbolized and facilitated her stepping back from the day-to-day duties that occupy the work of a full-time creative director. The British designer joined DVF in May 2016 and was in charge of all product categories. #wwdnews
For @versace_official’s spring ad campaign, the brand emphasized the archival prints from the spring tribute collection dedicated to the late Gianni Versace. Closing out the show were five of Gianni’s favorite models: Cindy, Naomi, Carla, Helena, and Claudia. Bowing on December 18, the new campaign is yet another tribute to supermodel-dom as the images by Steven Meisel are fronted by @iamnaomicampbell, @cturlington, @gisele and more. #wwdfashion
Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening has been waiting 20 years to play Gloria Graham in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," which will be released on December 29. The movie about Graham – a Hollywood star known for her controversial relationship with a younger Englishman named Peter Turner – is based off a memoir Turned wrote. "She felt vulnerable to him, because she loved him, she really did love him. And anyone that we really truly are in love with, we re vulnerable to in a very deep way," said Bening. Read our full interview with the modern icon of an actress on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @ninebagatelles; Styled by @cristinaehrlich)
The crisp white button down: a staple that can be dressed up or down and accessorized throughout the decades. Here, on a Art Basel-goer in 2017 on the left and on the iconic Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” in 1953 on the right. #tbt #wwdfashion (📷: Andrew Morales)
Known for her work with @victoriassecret, 25-year-old model @georgiafowler is raising her profile in Hollywood. Fowler stars in @vincecamuto’s holiday campaign, which launched in partnership with “Pitch Perfect 3.” “Almost every shoot with Vince Camuto, I’ve had to face a fear…It was definitely a challenge. I’m so grateful for it, though. I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, so that was the perfect chance,” Fowler said. Head to WWD.com to read about Fowler’s experience modeling, including at the #VSFashionShow, and her relationship with Nick Jonas. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
EXCLUSIVE: Huda Kattan just became the first beauty influencer to land a major beauty deal. Kattan's business, @hudabeauty, has received a minority investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. The brand, which industry sources say is on track to do $200 million in retail sales for 2017, will receive support on product, retail and geographic expansion through the deal. Get all the details on the deal and read @_a_collins' interview with Kattan on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Peruvian model @juanaburga_official – who is known for walking the runways of @rodarte, @viviennewestwood and @torybuch – is making the move to the big screen with drama “Los Últimos.” The film premiered in Argentina in November and arrives in the U.S. and Europe in 2018. On making the switch from modeling to acting, Burga told WWD: “It’s a completely different thing – a lot of people think it’s similar or try to connect things, especially like getting used to the camera or being looked at all the time or playing these different characrers, but film is a completely different story.” #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)