NEW YORK — Fairbrooke Enterprises, the 47-year-old outerwear firm that holds the licenses for Calvin Klein, CK and DKNY coats, has apparently ceased operations, leaving retailers and licensees wondering if fall merchandise will arrive as scheduled.
The company would not confirm it is going out of business, saying through a statement that it is exploring its options.
“We are currently looking at the overall strategic direction of Fairbrooke,” said Gregg Solomon, president. “We are working closely with our license and retail partners to determine what is best for their brands, the end consumer and the future of Fairbrooke.”
Former president and owner Gerald Solomon hung up abruptly when reached for comment at his Central Park West home. Gregg, Gerald’s son, took control of the company last year, though the elder Solomon stayed on as chairman.
According to sources, grumblings about the firm’s well-being started circling in the market over the last few months. As a result, Fairbrooke told some retailers that carry Calvin Klein and DKNY — stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's — that it was having financial problems, though it never revealed plans to shutter the business.
A spokeswoman for DKNY confirmed it knew about Fairbrooke’s business troubles, but did not disclose any further plans.
“We were aware of the situation with Fairbrooke and are making every effort to ship the fall season,” said the spokeswoman. “We are not ready to discuss our next step of what we are going to do with the DKNY [coat] collection.”
Tom Murry, president and chief operating officer at Calvin Klein Inc., said he wished Fairbrooke the best.
“We worked with Fairbrooke for many years. They have a lot of valuable know-how and talent,” said Murry. “Women’s coats are an important business to us. We are in the final stages of putting together an agreement with a new long-term partner.”
There were no employees in the office during a visit Thursday to the company’s headquarters at 230 West 38th Street, where it has four floors. In the Drizzle office, the firm’s in-house rainwear line, an empty reception desk with a list of extensions greeted visitors from behind an unlocked glass door. Sample products hung untouched on racks in several buying rooms where lights were turned off.Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman, said he had not been contacted by Fairbrooke regarding any financial problems nor any changes in the delivery of Calvin Klein, DKNY and Drizzle coats ordered by the store.
Bernard Holtzman, president of Harvé Benard, a Fairbrooke competitor, said he thought the firm may not have addressed some of the new realities in the coat business, such as the need to diversify product and manufacture offshore.
“You can’t just be a coat firm, you have to be an outerwear company, which means foreign sourcing and a different price range,” said Holtzman. “The world isn’t composed of wonderful, expensive stores selling wonderful, expensive coats. There are a few, but I don’t know if they fully addressed that reality.”
Holtzman also said the outerwear industry can be more difficult to navigate since most of the annual business is done during a two- to four-month period when fall merchandise sells, with significant overhead remaining during the rest of the year.
On the subject of what company might swoop up the DKNY, CK or Calvin Klein licenses, both Harvé Benard and Herman Kay Bromley — an outerwear company that holds licensing deals with Albert Nipon, Anne Klein and London Fog, and recently signed a licensing deal for the JLo by Jennifer Lopez outerwear line — are not interested in the upscale brands, despite their name recognition with consumers.
“We have a pretty full plate,” said Richard Kay, president of Herman Kay Bromley. “We looked at it briefly and decided not to go in that direction.”
Another coat manufacturer that could be a candidate to acquire a brand, such as Calvin Klein or DKNY, is G-III Apparel Group, which holds the outerwear licenses for Sean John, Cole Haan and Kenneth Cole, among others. However, executives at G-III would not comment on the potential interest of acquiring one of the licenses.
Alberta Ferretti's "Rainbow Week" sweaters are back. The designer closed her #MFW show with a few day-of-the-week sweaters, which first debuted on the catwalk last January as part of the pre-fall 2017 collection. #wwdfashion (📷: @delphineachard)