By  on April 10, 2006

LOS ANGELES — Tim Schifter has a new business partner, and she's not your classic boardroom dweller.

Schifter's new accessories company, Schifter & Partners, launches today with the help of co-shareholder Gwen Stefani, the platinum blonde celebrity of fashion, music and film.

Schifter is building on his track record at New York's LeSportsac: He transformed the functional nylon bag company founded by his parents in 1974 into a youth-friendly fashion brand enhanced by collaborations with style mavens such as Stefani.

Beginning in 2003, LeSportsac issued three collections with Stefani's contemporary label, L.A.M.B., that generated about a third of LeSportsac's more than $100 million in annual wholesale sales. In November, LeSportsac was sold to New York's Accessory Network Group and Japan's Itochu Corp., reportedly for more than $100 million.

At his new venture, which will be based in Manhattan's Flatiron District, the 47-year-old Schifter is reuniting with Stefani, who will help design cosmetic cases, messenger bags, totes, wallets, iPod cases and other accessories for L.A.M.B. and Harajuku Lovers, her lower-priced label that is heavily influenced by Tokyo streetwear and by her music.

Schifter is taking the unusual step of giving Stefani equity in his company. Declining to disclose exactly how much Stefani owns, Schifter said she is "a significant minority partner"; he is the majority shareholder.

Another thing different about Schifter's new company is that rather than focusing on one brand and working on temporary collaborations with labels such as L.A.M.B., Schifter aims to cultivate multiple brands focusing on the contemporary market and youth customers. In addition to L.A.M.B. and Harajuku Lovers, Schifter's portfolio includes Jill Stuart, the 13-year-old contemporary brand designed by the New York designer of the same name.

Schifter & Partners will show some 20 styles from Harajuku Lovers this fall, and follow with about 24 styles from L.A.M.B. and an undetermined number of offerings from Jill Stuart next spring. Retail prices will run $20 to $100 for Harajuku Lovers, $50 to $750 for L.A.M.B. and $125 to $500 for Jill Stuart. A fourth brand — Schifter is considering several candidates — will launch in the fourth quarter of 2007.

"The idea is to transform the handbags and accessories departments of department stores and specialty stores from older and more mature brands into a new generation of brands that truly resonates with the new, young consumer," said Schifter, leaning forward in a wing chair in a Chateau Marmont hotel suite during a visit here last week to hold design meetings with the seven-month-pregnant Stefani. "We really want to think outside of the box with this business."

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