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Claiborne’s Laundry Day

Trish Wescoat Pound has done a serious load of laundry as chief merchandising officer of contemporary brands at Liz Claiborne Inc. and president of Laundry by Design and lbd.

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Trish Wescoat Pound has done a serious load of laundry as chief merchandising officer of contemporary brands at Liz Claiborne Inc. and president of Laundry by Design and lbd.

Wescoat Pound began at the firm in October and has overhauled the label formerly known as Laundry by Shelli Segal. However, Laundry by Design is among the 16 brands that Claiborne has put up for strategic review, which includes a possible sale or discontinuation, as the $4.99 billion vendor seeks to restructure.

Claiborne said in a statement Wednesday that Laundry and the other brands had “uptapped potential” and would grow with “attention and investment.”

Laundry, which was launched in 1988, grew through the Nineties, reaching the $100 million mark by the time it was acquired by Claiborne in 1999. At the time, Paul Charron, Claiborne’s former chief executive officer, said he saw Laundry quickly becoming a $250 million business and had plans for retail expansion and new product categories. That never happened. Brad Stephens, retail analyst at Morgan Keegan & Co., said he didn’t think the volume was much more than $75 million. Company executives declined to give first-year sales expectations for the reinvented brand.

“Nothing can be successful without an identity, which is something this brand lacked,” Wescoat Pound said. She joined the company after spending a year as president of Michael Kors women’s and eight years at Theory, where she was president of women’s wear.

“We needed to revamp and relaunch in order to make it a brand that women wanted to buy,” she said. “This really can be seen as a completely new brand, which is part of the reason why we changed the name. Laundry by Design is completely made for the contemporary girl. These are clothes she wants to wear.”

The overhaul also sections off the divisions into separate labels. Laundry by Design consists of a complete collection of contemporary evening and cocktail dresses; lbd is the sportswear, and lbd beneath is a line of lingerie and loungewear. The idea is to offer the contemporary shopper a complete range of products to fit her lifestyle, but at prices that sit on the lower end of contemporary, wholesaling from $65 to $240, Wescoat Pound said.

That lifestyle is displayed in great detail in the brand’s New York showroom at 1441 Broadway, which is set up like a young woman’s New York apartment. Walking in, a visitor is immediately in this woman’s living room, where mannequins sit on a couch wearing the latest resort looks. All the current fashion magazines are on a coffee table and the walls are covered with a collage of inspirational photos. Further into the space is her kitchen, where there is an old bathtub filled with clothing, and finally, her bedroom, where clothes are strewn on the bed and over an ironing board. Suitcases are piled on the floor. More mannequins are looking out the window and some are sitting on the bed.

“She’s getting ready for her trip to Morocco,” said Wescoat Pound, explaining the feeling for the resort line. “Her friends are over and they are just kind of hanging out before she leaves. There are clothes all over her place, because she doesn’t collect art and china, she collects clothing.”

And it wasn’t just the clothes Wescoat Pound changed. She had Claiborne move the Laundry by Shelli Segal headquarters from Los Angeles to New York. She increased the creative team from eight people to a collective of 24 young designers.

“Every single one of these designers is so talented and they are cultured, they travel, they are so in tune with this customer,” she said.

The fabrics have been upgraded, and more come from Europe. There are silk chiffon dresses, fine-knit casual day dresses, woven button-down tops, sexy beaded tops, bubble skirts, sweatshirts complete with iPod pockets and loops near the hood for easy headphone access, fine wool shorts, pants, vests and blazers (which Wescoat Pound said are modern career attire), oversize sweaters with sequin detailing and crocheted swimwear. Wescoat Pound stressed the importance of fine-tuning the fit and quality of the collection.

The new products are being relaunched at Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Nordstrom later this month. The offerings will have the new label and will completely replace the Laundry by Shelli Segal brand. Claiborne executives said that Segal formally left the company in 2002, four years after Claiborne acquired the label, and remained a consultant.

Even though William L. McComb, Claiborne’s chief executive officer, named Laundry as one of the brands under review, he said he believed in the new vision that Wescoat Pound has for the brand.

“Trish understands both the business and design sides,” he said. “With her leadership, Laundry will set trends, generate business and open doors.”

And it has already started to open doors. Bloomingdale’s has carried the Laundry by Shelli Segal for years, but Frank Doroff, senior executive vice president and general merchandise manager for the store, said he was making room for more Laundry.

“We really believe in it and plan to bring it in in a big way,” Doroff said. “We are giving it a lot more space and think it looks really great.”

Abbey Samet, contemporary market analyst for The Doneger Group, the large buying office, agreed.

“It does look great,” she said. “They have captured the lifestyle of the contemporary customer and have thought the line through a lot.”

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