NEW YORK — Balinger Gold is aiming to go back to its roots.
The 12-year-old sportswear company, which in its heyday sold in upscale stores like Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus, now has its original team back. Designer MaryLu Lambert has rejoined the company as creative director and part-owner after leaving in 1995, and founder and former vice president Candice Gold has also returned as a consultant.
Thomas Burns, president of the New York-based company, said bringing the original team back to revive the brand was needed.
"It didn’t make sense unless we put the right team together," said Burns, who started at Balinger Gold in March 2001 at the same time Lambert returned. "And the company still has great name recognition, and as I would meet people and say ‘Balinger Gold’ they would say ‘great product.’"
Lambert recalled a time in the early to mid-Nineties when celebrities like Sharon Stone, Sarah Jessica Parker and Juliette Lewis wore Balinger Gold. But for about five years after she left the company, the brand "lost its vision" and went through a strange period, she said.
"When I left the product became ugly with bad colors and bad design," Lambert said. "But now we have made it tasteful again and it’s a fashion-oriented line. It’s still a monumental challenge relaunching a line. We started Balinger Gold in a recession right after 1987, so in a way we’re in a similar situation today with the economic climate. The good thing is the factories are hungry for work, so they’ll take a smaller [cutting] ticket. And the only way to make it right now is to have cash flow."
The 14-person company with offices at 205 West 39th Street is owned by Hong Kong-based Prosperity. The goal for first-year wholesale volume is about $8 million. The company also sees a lot of opportunity in private label and is actively looking for possible acquisitions supported through financing from its parent company which does about $85 million.
For now, Lambert and Burns seem pleased with the look of Balinger Gold. As Lambert said, it’s back to its roots, but updated.The holiday and resort collection includes about 30 pieces and is spread over crocheted sweaters, dresses, jackets woven skirts and pants. Details like beading on sweaters, asymmetrical skirts and extra stiching are featured on certain items. Wholesale prices range from $25 for a T-shirt to $70 for a lace pant and $80 for a crocheted sweater. The target audience is a women in her 30s and older, but the collection is not geared toward any one age group, Lambert said.
Retailers seem pleased with Balinger Gold’s new approach.
Joan Shepp, owner of her namesake shop in Philadelphia, said she used to do a lot of business with the brand in the Nineties and just started featuring it again.
"The designer is excellent. They are definitely in the right direction," Shepp said. "It has a lot of fresh new things, feminine prints and I liked the holiday cruise group."
Indigo owner Carole Ege Weart, who owns stores in Chappaqua and Hastings on Hudson, N.Y., said she also started featuring the line again after a long hiatus.
"There seems to be a turnaround, and I don’t know where it comes from but there’s a resurgence of some kind of creativity," Weart said. "It’s more updated. I like it because it has a missy cut with a contemporary flair, without it being too young. My customers are in their 20s to 50s, so it’s quite good."
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