Lagerfeld Optimistic About Brand’s New Direction

According to Karl Lagerfeld, “bridge” is a term for dentistry, not fashion.

PARIS — According to Karl Lagerfeld, “bridge” is a term for dentistry, not fashion.

That’s why Lagerfeld supported Tommy Hilfiger Corp.’s decision last month to shut down the fledgling New York-based Karl Lagerfeld label, returning the focus of the business back onto his Paris-based designer collection.

“Fred Gehring was right to close it down,” Lagerfeld said, referring to Hilfiger’s new global chief executive officer, who took over last May following the sale of the U.S. company to Apax Partners. “This organization couldn’t work.”

In his first interview about the closure, the designer said he understood Gehring’s more pressing need is to reposition the Hilfiger brand, which has been struggling in America. And he added that he ultimately took issue with the positioning of the new Karl Lagerfeld contemporary line, which he had hoped would become a big-volume business, but whose prices approached the bridge zone.

“It was much too expensive. Today there is Gap, Zara and H&M,” said Lagerfeld. “My name is a kind of household name. I am supposed to be on jeans and T-shirts.”

Still, his new brand owner is brimming with confidence about the potential of the Lagerfeld brand — even though he stopped short of ruling out an eventual disposal.

Lagerfeld’s collection business, to be rebranded Karl Lagerfeld, “continues to hold tremendous potential. The name Karl Lagerfeld carries a worldwide reputation and represents the ultimate in fashion and glamour,” Gehring told WWD, adding that he decided to “turn back to where the business was at the time of the [Hilfiger] acquisition in 2005 and focus solely on growing this first line to its full potential.”

For complete coverage, see tomorrow’s issue of WWD.