By  on January 26, 1994

NEW YORK -- Tommy says it's time.

Now that he's a men's wear star and has a major fragrance deal with Estee Lauder, Tommy Hilfiger is planning to get back into the women's business and has former Liz Claiborne vice chairman Jay Margolis spearheading the effort.

"Timing is everything, and I think the timing is right to reenter the women's wear market," says Hilfiger.

Hilfiger, vice chairman of the $200 million men's sportswear company bearing his name, says the women's sportswear line will be ready in about a year. He plans to manufacture and market it himself.

Just the fact that Hilfiger can even consider reentering the women's market, illustrates one of fashion's most dramatic comeback stories.

In four years, the designer has gone from famine to feast.

After an abrupt split in 1989 with his former backer, Murjani International, Hilfiger scrambled for new financing and put together a men's sportswear collection that is today one of the hottest sellers at retail, even rivaling Polo/Ralph Lauren. In addition to Estee Lauder, he now has licensees with Hartmarx, Jockey International, Superba, Oxford Industries, Trafalgar and Mountain High Hosiery.

And his publicly traded stock, one of the industry's most successful IPOs in 1992, is flying high. The company, which now employs 300, went public in September 1992 at $15 a share and had a secondary offering in November 1993 at $31 a share. The stock closed Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange at xxxxx.

On Monday, the company reported earnings soared 87.8 percent in the third quarter and 72.1 percent in the nine months ended Dec. 31.

Profits in the quarter were $7.7 million, or 48 cents a share, up from $4.1 million, or 28 cents, a year earlier. Sales jumped 66.1 percent to $63.1 million from $38 million.

For the nine months ended Dec. 31, earnings rose 72.1 percent to $17.1 million, or $1.06, and sales climbed 62.3 percent to $159.1 million.

Wall Street analysts expect the company to post sales in excess of $200 million for the year ending March 31, and between $260 million and $270 million in fiscal 1995. For 1993, the company had net sales of $138.6 million and net income of $14.6 million.

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