It’s been almost three years since Liz Claiborne Inc. purchased two small Vancouver-based contemporary brands called Kensie and Mac & Jac. Today, many labels under the Liz umbrella are suffering, but Kensie is a bright spot.
These companies may not have been considered power brands at Claiborne in 2006, but analysts agreed the acquisition would do wonders for the company’s desire to strengthen its contemporary apparel segment. They said at the time that the labels would most likely pick up steam and sit well alongside the group’s subsidiaries, Juicy Couture and Laundry by Shelli Segal (which Claiborne sold to Perry Ellis International last year).
Back in 2006, the purchase price of the labels — which included the retirement of debt at closing — was estimated to be $23.6 million, plus additional payments based upon a multiple of Mac & Jac’s earnings in fiscal years 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Mac & Jac, the larger of the brands at that time, generated net sales of approximately $40 million in fiscal 2005.
Today, of course, the story is a bit different. While Mac & Jac remains strong, selling in major department and specialty stores, Kensie is rapidly gaining ground. The brand, which launched 10 years ago as a contemporary knitwear resource, is now a full contemporary sportswear brand complete with 10 Macy’s shop-in-shops, 25 shops at Dillard’s and two freestanding stores in Hong Kong, with more shops in the works. In total, the brand is sold in 1,500 specialty doors and 400 department store doors.
But that’s just part of it. Kensie’s two-year-old sister label, Kensiegirl, is also picking up steam. The junior label, which wholesales between $15 and $35, is opening up shop-in-shops, the first of which landed at Macy’s Herald Square last month. That shop has prime real estate on the junior floor, with 1,700 square feet of selling space. There are three more Kensiegirl shops planned to open in early 2009.
The secret to the success of Kensie and Kensiegirl, said Eric Karls, a founder, president and chief executive officer of the brand, is a combination of efforts — consistent on-time deliveries, providing on-trend merchandise and a low price point on the contemporary floor (Kensie wholesales for between $25 and $40).
“We have had tremendous expansion in the last year and a half,” Karls said. “We have been very fortunate to experience this in this economy.”
While Karls declined to comment on exact volume figures, he said the company has experienced between 25 and 30 percent growth over plan per week at retail with Kensie — which is pushing him to get even more product on the floor, fast. Karls said he has just signed a license with the New York-based Aimee Lynn Accessories for handbags, which will launch in the spring. There’s also a licensed line of shoes, cold weather accessories and eyewear for Kensie, and to add to the mix, Karls said he is in talks to introduce a denim line, home and swimwear. In addition, Karls has launched Kensie Dresses at retail for holiday, which he said is performing above plan.
“We’ve gone from evening to daytime with the dresses and at $120 to $150 at retail, we’ve hit a sweet spot on the floor,” he said.
For Kensie, Karls said, the biggest area of growth will be international. He is planning to open Kensie shops in Sears Mexico and is looking to open shops in Chile, South Korea and Russia and will launch in Europe next year at the Bread & Butter trade show. Stateside, Karls said he plans to open three freestanding stores next year, but has just begun scouting locations.
While Kensie and Mac & Jac were two of the 14 brands Liz Claiborne put under review last year, William L. McComb, ceo of Claiborne, said in March that the company decided to keep the firms. In mid-August, McComb called the Kensie brand a “business that has its mojo,” and one that will continue to expand.
“This is really about the Kensie brand,” McComb told WWD. “The brand is profitable and growing and our accounts like it.”
From overseeing America’s fastest-growing speciality retailers to codifying cool, WWD talked to the women who are leading the way for the future of beauty. Check out our Instagram Stories to see how these women built today and are creating tomorrow. (📸: @hannah_khymych) #wwdbeauty
For @laperlalingerie's spring 2018 show, the brand chose to host their event at @thevenetianmacao. With Chinese megastars @bingbing_fan and @hubing in attendance, La Perla debuted a rock ‘n’ roll-inspired collection. The show marked the start of Sands Macao Fashion Week, which runs from October 19 to 24 — the city’s first such event. Pictured here are models backstage with glimmering eyes. #wwdfashion (📷: Cheuk-Yin To)
Trending for spring 2018: top stitch design. Gone are the days of stitch just for seams — designers are using the once-minimal detail to create strong decorative elements. (📷: Paola Testa; Styled by @andrew_shang) #wwdfashion
@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)