LOS ANGELES — Designer Louis Verdad is breaking with the past in an effort to build a more marketable future.
Verdad was known for indulging in the glamour embodied by Forties screen sirens for his tailored women’s clothing. Now, after declaring bankruptcy 18 months ago and losing the rights to use his name, the Los Angeles-based designer is preparing to launch a 42-piece fall collection called Louver, which is divided between a high-end line he’s producing for custom orders and a less expensive contemporary grouping that he plans to wholesale. Although the tailoring remains constant, Verdad replaced the jewel tones that infused his previous namesake line with an all-black palette. He also adopted a new business philosophy.
“I intend to do everything different,” Verdad said. “My quality is going to be better than before. I’m going to do it myself. I’m going to make sure the customer gets what we ship.”
The recession can deter many entrepreneurs, but Verdad faces the extra challenge of regaining the trust of retailers and textile providers who were left with broken promises and unpaid bills when his previous business, Louis Verdad Inc., failed.
Favored by Madonna, Louis Verdad at its peak about four years ago generated more than $4 million in annual sales. Flawed production and shipping, coupled with the designer’s lack of oversight and inability to fix the mistakes, led Louis Verdad to file for bankruptcy in December 2007. American Business Fund, a Los Angeles-based firm that provided financing for Louis Verdad Inc. during its last months in business, now owns the rights to the brand name. Verdad said he is in mediation with American Business Fund to obtain the use of his name.
“I want a second chance,” Verdad said. “I will ask for it. I will back it up with good product.”
Verdad is selling Louver to retailers such as Noni, a contemporary boutique in Los Angeles that carried Louis Verdad. He’s trying to be flexible, revising prices and lowering the minimum quantities if requested by retailers.
The designer also learned how to diverge from high to low for the sake of marketability. In his high-end grouping, mink puffs adorn the cap sleeves on a $1,200 shift accentuated with intricate appliqués of washed lambskin leather. He tweaked the same style to wholesale for $210 by using a lighter wool gabardine costing about $8 per yard compared with the other dress’ $49-per-yard fabric. He also discarded the mink, as well as the appliqués, which were replaced by a wide band of leather encircling the hem.
With a $650 hooded rayon jersey sheath dramatized by spikes embedded on a leather panel bisecting the front, Verdad made it more palatable for a contemporary customer by extricating the sharp embellishments and lopping off the hood to fashion a turtleneck instead. As a result, Verdad shaved $471 off the cost for a $179 wholesale price tag.
On another open-back dress crafted out of wool gabardine, he used a less expensive belt buckle and replaced the wool-cashmere sleeves with billows of silk charmeuse. The two versions go for $1,100 and $202, respectively.
“I have to be able to sell my product,” Verdad said, noting that his inaugural collection displays an abundance of dresses and an all-black palette because dresses are good sellers and black fabric is easy and cheap to find.
“That was my whole mistake [with Louis Verdad Inc.],” he said. “I didn’t pay attention to my markets. I learned you have to be frugal. You have to be versatile.”
After losing his name and business, Verdad cast a wide net for a job, interviewing at a fast-fashion retailer and also at high-end design houses in New York. But no one was willing to take a risk on him in a slumping economy, so Verdad began working on Louver in January with several thousand dollars that he raised.
Tucked behind an unmarked door in a converted warehouse near Chinatown, Verdad’s studio is a fraction of the size of his former 10,000-square-foot space. Instead of some 30 employees, his staff is fewer than a half dozen, including interns. Verdad declined to forecast first-year sales.
Verdad hung photographs snapped by August Bradley of models striking dramatic poses in dresses from past collections. A picture of Jesus Christ is pinned on one wall.
Verdad, however, hasn’t abandoned his previous palette. For his sophomore set shipping for the holiday season, he selected vibrant hues of red, yellow, melon and fuchsia.
“I’m still learning every day,” Verdad said. “In order to create a brand, you need to have a vision.”
@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