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NEW YORK — Dana-Co is among the limited ranks of independent companies looking to get a bigger piece of the lingerie business in 2003.

This story first appeared in the December 9, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Established as ERO Ltd. in 1991, the firm began a transformation this year under its new name, Dana-Co, as a fashion-forward manufacturer of branded lingerie bearing the Angelie label, as well as private label merchandise tailored for major department and specialty stores that want exclusive designs and products.

The Manhattan-based firm is headed by its two owners: John Bowman, president, and Zvi Ertel, chief executive officer. Bowman is an established executive in the innerwear industry with a 30-year career that includes introducing and developing the Wacoal and licensed Donna Karan Intimates and DKNY Underwear collections at Wacoal America. At Dana-Co, he oversees sales, merchandising and design.

Ertel is a 20-year veteran of the intimate apparel field, starting his career as president of the Delta Galil USA unit of Israel-based Delta Galil. For 12 years, Ertel, who Bowman described as the “behind-the-scenes guru,” has been manufacturing and importing various intimate apparel brands throughout the industry. His responsibilities include finance, logistics and manufacturing.

Ertel and Bowman met earlier this year through Ertel’s wife, Sandra Waitz, who is a design director for Bali bras at Sara Lee Intimate Apparel.

“Our plan is to do $5 million in wholesale sales next year,” Bowman said. “The onus is on us to do the best we can. The most difficult aspect is trying to get all of the pieces together with a start-up staff.”

So far, the company, headquartered at 1 Penn Plaza, has eight employees including sales, production and design. Bowman said he and Ertel are looking to “extend into a consortium of sales people who will show at all of the regional markets.”

Bowman noted that he and Ertel did their share of homework before approaching retailers.

“We are totally EDI set up and are UPC compliant,” he said. “We have forecasting capabilities, have warehousing facilities in New Jersey and we have quality inspectors who travel to our factories.”

The company’s production is conducted in China, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Thailand.

As for how tough it is to start a business at a time when the economy is bleak and retail sales flat, Bowman said: “Generally, manufacturers have to play it close to the vest. In today’s world, you have to do that. What I actually put into production, I’m always committed for. What I have on order is always air-shipped.”

Bowman was executive vice president of sales, marketing and merchandising of Wacoal America and president of Wacoal’s Donna Karan and DKNY intimates businesses until July 2000.

“When I left Wacoal, I confirmed my plane reservation for the Lyon Mode City show in Lyon, France, to make sure I didn’t miss a beat,” he recalled. “Retailers are trying to differentiate themselves from the others on the block. I believe there’s an opportunity for retailers to have another choice. Retailers are looking for other brands. There’s an opportunity to bring great-looking and great-fitting product to the middle- and upper-tier stores.”

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