NEW YORK — John Bartlett’s yearlong effort to revive his signature business with a new backer appears to be at an end, as several sources said the designer was winding down operations of the men’s collection and its Uniform diffusion brand.
This story first appeared in the November 18, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Bartlett has had a rocky career since establishing his signature label in 1992. The Harvard and Fashion Institute of Technology-trained designer has had many notable accolades, particularly in men’s wear, but ultimately has not produced a commercial success. His Uniform launch, which landed in stores this spring, included a sampling of women’s styles and was ultimately expected to further establish Bartlett in the women’s arena.
Neither Bartlett nor his director of sales and marketing, Barry Gurin, could be reached Friday.
Bartlett’s lines were picked up initially by Manhattan stores including Jeffrey New York and Camouflage, as well as Saks Fifth Avenue, which carries Bartlett’s signature collection in its New York and San Francisco locations, as well as Uniform in 11 doors. Several retailers said that Friday they had not been informed of Bartlett’s decision to close shop.
After leaving the Italian label Byblos in February 2001, Bartlett kept a low profile until he formed a new contract with Fit, a Pescara, Italy-based manufacturer, which included a deal to continue his signature collection and produce John Bartlett Uniform. That line focused on a militaria and street-fashion look, with presentations that included overt references to gay sex — provoking some controversial reactions to the sight of undressed men bound in cages or models lying in army cots as if they were in a postwar infirmary.
“When I left Byblos, I realized how exhausted I was,” Bartlett said, when he announced the new backer. “For three years, I essentially lived out of a suitcase. I wanted a change. I wanted to take it all back and have a life.”
In September, Bartlett showed his collection on the roof of the Hudson Hotel, closing with two men in the buff who covered themselves with surfboards, catching at least one of the season’s dominant trends. (The surfing part, that is.) As for the clothes, he showed mesh T-shirts with slogans like “Chakra Queen” and “Butch Buddha,” rugby shirts with Hibiscus prints and pink board shorts with camouflage trim.
The Uniform collection was initially priced to retail under about $270 for an outfit, about half the price of the signature collection. But in February, Bartlett rolled back prices for the collections by about 20 percent, reacting to an estimated 45 percent drop in sales after Sept. 11, in an effort to provide more value to men’s designer shoppers.