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Courrèges to Cut Out Wholesale

PARIS — Coqueline Courrèges said Friday she’s fed up with multibrand stores and is pulling her collection out of all of them.<br><br>Effective next spring, the line will be concentrated in her flagship here. The collection is carried...

PARIS — Coqueline Courrèges said Friday she’s fed up with multibrand stores and is pulling her collection out of all of them.

Effective next spring, the line will be concentrated in her flagship here. The collection is carried at such stores as Neiman Marcus, Jeffrey, Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman.

“To do a business in that manner is not to do a business,” she said tersely, declining to elaborate. However, she suggested the move would improve her brand’s image and bring greater customer satisfaction.

Asked whether she would consider opening more company-owned boutiques, Courrèges said “Yes,” but gave no time frame.

Retailers, informed by letter or telephone, are perplexed, saying the brand, relaunched about three years ago, was generating good business.

“It’s disappointing because there is a customer,” said Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director at Bergdorf’s, which has had “nice success” with its 500-square-foot Courrèges shop on the second floor. “It was fun for [customers] to have a piece of fashion history.”

“There was a lot of untapped potential there, for really doing something with the brand,” agreed Jeffrey Kalinsky, who operates multibrand shops in Atlanta and New York.

“It looks great on all ages, so it’s disappointing,” added Ginny Hershey, divisional merchandise manager for couture at Neiman Marcus. “The name, the logo and everything else is so well known. The customers thought it was a fun collection.”

Sources said Courrèges did $10 million to $15 million at wholesale distributing the collection to multibrand stores. Courrèges, the wife of fabled Sixties couturier André Courrèges, declined to comment on any figures.

An energetic, impulsive woman, Courrèges and her husband once cancelled a fashion show at the last minute in 1995, fearing others would copy their designs. In recent years, she has staged unusual “happenings” to show her designs. She once put a boiling pot of tar in her boutique and cast a jacket in resin.

Yet during the height of the acquisitions frenzy in the late Nineties, many suitors came knocking, ranging from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton to Gucci Group, sources said. However, the asking price, north of $150 million, and terms of the sale were said to be off-putting.

On Friday, Courrèges said she plans to focus her energies on couture and new design projects like automobiles.

Courrèges was recently on the verge of signing a fragrance license with beauty giant Wella AG before talks broke down, sources said. The Courrèges brand has four women’s fragrances.