NEW YORK — It’s safe to address Daryl Kerrigan as Daryl K, once again.
After a year of negotiations, the designer has bought back the rights to her name from The Leiber Group and will relaunch her Daryl K label with a capsule collection at Henri Bendel in October, followed by broader distribution for spring retailing.
Kerrigan, who has been absent from the designer scene since April 2001, said on Wednesday she had recently reached a settlement to acquire the rights to her name from the failed American conglomerate, initially called Pegasus Apparel Group. She would not disclose terms of the deal, while officials at The Leiber Group and its remaining signature brand, Judith Leiber, would not answer any questions about the transaction. “The most important thing is that this is over,” Kerrigan said. “I’m really able to start fresh again.”
One of the most critically acclaimed designers in New York, Kerrigan will mark her return on Sept. 19 with a party at Henri Bendel, following Narciso Rodriguez’s runway show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. She will present eight looks designed in the spirit of some of her most faithful customers, some of which will be featured in the store with deliveries beginning in October, said Ed Burstell, vice president and general manager of Henri Bendel.
Camilla Nickerson of Vogue, Victoria Bartlett of Interview and Anne Christensen of The New York Times Magazine; photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Ellen Von Unwerth; model Erin O’Connor, curator Clarissa Dalrymple of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and artist Cecily Brown are expected to informally model Kerrigan’s tailor-made pieces, which will also be photographed for a feature in The New York Times Magazine. Amy Spindler, style director of the magazine, helped coordinate the collaboration, which will be featured in the publication around the time of the party, she said.
“The night Daryl was closing her store, we all took a six a six-pack of beer and went down to see the place close,” Spindler said. “Camilla Nickerson and I sat there and said it was really important to keep Daryl going. It’s swim or die in this business, and what kind of business are we if we let somebody like this waste away and not have work?”
The project was a starting point for Kerrigan’s capsule collection that will mark her return to retail. “It’s a very small group that we’ve worked out, with some pants, of course, and a couple of suits, which I think is really the great thing to have this season,” Kerrigan said. “There are a couple of great cuts of pants, a few dresses and one outerwear piece that is a zippered flight jacket, with a pencil skirt to go with it.”
Nickerson described the experience of working with Kerrigan as tailoring “my dream look. It’s a sexy androgyny, I suppose, a jumbo shrimp of an outfit. It’s not one thing or another.”
It’s the loss of that je-ne-sais-quoi quality of Kerrigan’s signature designs that caused Bendel’s to rally behind the designer, Burstell said, after hers became the second of the former Leiber-backed brands to close. Following the Pegasus-Pamela Dennis war and preceding the sudden termination of Miguel Adrover, Kerrigan’s production was halted on her fall 2001 collection and her signature stores in New York and Los Angeles were shuttered. As reported, Adrover is also returning to business this season with a collection presentation scheduled for Sept. 21.
“I don’t intend to build a large studio as we did before,” said Kerrigan, who has moved back into her original studio at 189 Bowery from her larger Bond Street offices above her old signature store. “I don’t really want to go forward that way because it ties me down too much as a designer. I don’t have enough free time for myself with that many management responsibilities. It all got a little bit too heavy before and it shouldn’t be like that. I’d like to enjoy my job again and enjoy my life again.”
The Daryl K and secondary K-189 collections will be blended into one more concise collection under the Daryl K label, with signature low-waisted jeans as well as some new styles likely to retail from about $168 to $278. She’s also interested in opening another Daryl K store, possibly by April, “but I’m not really sure when that’s going to happen. Our future is an open book right now.”
Asked if she would consider another backer, Kerrigan replied, “I don’t even know how to look for a backer, obviously.”