Thank heaven for little girls and the dolls they play with.
That’s what Howard Kahn, chief executive officer of Kahn Lucas, is thinking now that his firm has purchased the iconic Alexander Doll Co. “The late Madame Beatrice Alexander founded her company almost 90 years ago on many of the same principles we have practiced at Kahn Lucas,” said Kahn in an exclusive interview, citing a shared belief that their products nurture girls in their early development. “It’s a cultural fit.”
Kahn declined to disclose the purchase price on Alexander Doll, which was owned by The Kaizen Breakthrough Partnership private equity firm managed by the Gefinor banking group. With the acquisition, Kahn Lucas, a maker of girls’ dresses, including matching dresses for dolls, will have revenues of between $200 million and $250 million, with Alexander Doll representing about one-third of the volume, according to industry estimates.
Kahn Lucas for four years has been a licensing partner with Alexander Doll under Kahn Lucas’ Dollie & Me brand of matching girl and doll apparel and fashion accessories. The transaction includes some “experiential” components, including two setups at FAO Schwarz — the Madame Alexander Doll Factory where girls can create their own dolls, and the Newborn Nursery, where girls learn about babies in nurseries as preparation for when they have siblings. Kahn also said that Alexander Doll brings valuable data on customers and sales.
Alexander Doll was started by Madame Alexander on her kitchen table in Brooklyn when she was 28. Her vision was that dolls should engage a child’s imagination and contribute to her happiness and understanding of the world. Over the decades, literature, fairy tales and movies became inspirations for creating the dolls, some taken from characters in “Alice in Wonderland,” “Little Women” and “Gone With the Wind.” In the Forties, Madame Alexander developed the first dolls with “sleep eyes” that open and close, and the first dolls made of DuPont hard plastic. In 1955, she introduced the first full-figured fashion doll called Cissy who wore designer outfits. Madame Alexander died in 1990 at the age of 95. Alexander Doll collectibles are priced around $400, while the play dolls are priced at $30.
Kahn Lucas, based in Lancaster, Pa., and New York City, has an even longer history. The privately held, fourth-generation family firm was founded in 1889 and is focused on girls’ fashions for sizes newborn to 16 that are carried at Nordstrom, J.C. Penney, Sears, Wal-Mart, Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us, among other retailers. Alexander Doll represents the dress firm’s first acquisition, though Kahn said he would consider another acquisition, particularly since he’s now competing more squarely against the $600 million American Girl, a division of Mattel.
“We want to own that relationship between a girl and a doll,” said Kahn, who has two daughters and a son. “Girls literally develop emotional intelligence through imaginary, pretend play. A doll could be a girl’s best friend or her sister.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast