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Designer Jared Gold Strikes Gold

LOS ANGELES — Designer Jared Gold, whose following for his darkly whimsical and offbeat women’s and men’s wear stretches from Tokyo to London and has made him a key figure of the fledgling Los Angeles designer community, has found a...

LOS ANGELES — Designer Jared Gold, whose following for his darkly whimsical and offbeat women’s and men’s wear stretches from Tokyo to London and has made him a key figure of the fledgling Los Angeles designer community, has found a financial backer in some of his long-time fans.

Gold has entered into a partnership with Nadine and John Macaluso of California Concepts, a Gardenia, Calif.-based manufacturer of mass kids and women’s wear with sales in excess of $100 million to retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Sears.

But neither Black Chandelier nor the Jared Gold Signature brand — which have had success since its launch in 1995 at Fred Segal Melrose and Barneys New York, among others — are headed for those channels, both sides stressed.

Nadine Macaluso began buying Jared Gold at Barneys, where she also sells a better maternity line under the Nadine Caridi Co. label, also produced by California Concepts. The new partners intend to keep the signature line at the young designer level, while strengthening the position of the young contemporary-junior-skewed Black Chandelier line, which bowed last spring.

“We just felt Jared has such an approach to clothing which we hadn’t seen in the market,” she said in an exclusive interview Thursday. “He has just such a completely different perspective. We just needed each other.”

John Macaluso concurred. “We’re hoping with his talent and our financial backing we can make this happen the way it should go. He’s been doing it so long on his own, it’s time for him to break out.”

The joint partnership allows Gold to retain merchandising and design control of the two lines. The newly created LLC is called La Belle et La Bette (translation: Beauty and the Beast).

Combined, the lines could do about $10 million in sales in 2003, believes John Macaluso. That’s a leap from where the line was before: in 2001, the signature line had sales of $400,000. “We’re very excited about the whole prospect of blowing him up.”

Gold added that he’s looking to position his namesake line, which aims to continue pricing at retail between $100 and $700, in just under 100 key better doors in the first year, while “doing volume” with Black Chandelier, which will top at $200 retail, in more than 250 doors.

The deal, signed last week, comes at the end of a long summer of secret talks with various suitors. Just as Gold was about to sign with one interested party, his friend and publicist Lee Trimble (also known here for her leadership with the Coalition of Los Angeles Designers) put him in touch with the Macalusos. “They just knew who I was,” Gold enthused in a telephone interview from New York. “The negotiations were very short and really friendly.”

The designer took the red-eye Wednesday night to meet with Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week organizers on the encouragement of his new partners. He will show both lines at the Pavilion at Bryant Park on Sept. 22 at noon.

Gold’s shows have always been an anticipated highlight of fashion week here, involving the kind of high jinks theatrics, from fire eaters to human puppets, that could come alive in an Edward Gorey nightmare. For his New York debut last Sept. 9, he and his mother did a classical duet as models glided by in the ballroom at the Gramercy Park Hotel.

The Bryant Park show is a first not only for Gold but his partners. Separate showrooms for each line in New York and Los Angeles will also be in place.

“We want to go into designer contemporary, the co-ops, the fifth floor of Bergdorfs — where fashion is more affordable,” said Nadine. “At this economy, that’s where the traffic is.”

The economy is another reason why the deal is such a great idea, said Julie Gilhart, vice president and fashion director of Barneys New York. “I always think it’s good when a designer who’s as creative as Jared gets some investment to be able to do what they want to do. Young designers lines in general sometimes have trouble maintaining consistency because of their financial status. They’re truly the ones affected when the economy isn’t doing well.”