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Mary McFadden Owes But License Continues

NEW YORK — Mary McFadden’s high-end ready-to-wear collection appears to have been the victim of a downturn in demand for luxury goods after Sept. 11, according to several fabric suppliers who also said they are owed money by the...

NEW YORK — Mary McFadden’s high-end ready-to-wear collection appears to have been the victim of a downturn in demand for luxury goods after Sept. 11, according to several fabric suppliers who also said they are owed money by the designer.

Some of McFadden’s vendors described the company as experiencing an “extreme cash flow problem” over the past nine months and had already cut her credit line or stopped selling fabrics or services to her altogether. Others are owed significant funds and are having a hard time finding answers from apparently AWOL McFadden, or her associates, since the company has apparently shut down and no one’s returning calls from her abandoned headquarters.

“One of our clients is owed $12,000 and believes she has just left and walked away,” said James Leone, the wholesale credit manager for Westbury, N.Y.,-based Solo Credit International. “I have had no success in attempting to reach her accountant.”

While others reacted harshly to the sudden closing of her business last week, McFadden found at least one defender on Monday in the latest licensed collection that bears her name, the moderate-priced Mary McFadden Collection launched a year ago by Ben Elias Industries. Colin Tanenbaum, president of Mary McFadden Collection, said he’s spoken to the designer recently and that she had expressed a desire to put more of her efforts into the branded collection than her own line. He would not say when that conversation took place.

“She’s very thoroughly involved in what we do,” Tanenbaum said. “She’ll be making personal appearances for the collection, as well as signings and television appearances. The collection has done so well that she’s going to increase her involvement with the branded license.”

In two seasons, the MMC line has been picked up by key accounts like Dillard’s, Nordstrom and May Co. and features novelty fabric suits that retail for less than $100. Tanenbaum said the line exceeded its initial first-year projections of $10 million, but would not disclose actual volume.

Tanenbaum also would not address questions involving the circumstances of McFadden’s signature business or how its apparent closure would affect the licensee, other than to say the MMC line is expected to continue with the designer’s full participation.

“I have nothing to do with the Couture,” he said. “I know she puts her full effort into the collection, but I can say that, generally, today’s economic conditions can’t be that great for anybody in the [that] business.”

That’s a theory that evidently has played out with bad results for some of McFadden’s biggest suppliers. For instance, executives at Eastern Silk Mills, a Seventh Avenue fabric company that once counted McFadden as one of its biggest clients, said the designer has been an increasingly sporadic customer in recent years and that her accounts have not been updated for the past eight months. The company stopped shipping orders to McFadden this year and is owed $3,800, one executive there said.

Officials at Solstiss/Bucol USA, the luxury French lace company, also said McFadden’s business has clearly not been doing well this year and said the designer hardly placed any orders since May. Because of McFadden’s cash flow problems, the firm also cut her credit line and would only ship cash-on-delivery.

Meanwhile, Guild Quilting, a high-end factory at 115 West 30th Street that specializes in pleating, stitching and tucking — some of the hallmark features of McFadden’s designs — continued to fulfill several orders for the company this year. Executives there were unaware on Monday that McFadden had apparently closed her line and notified her landlords at 240 West 35th Street that she was vacating the premises.

Asked how much the factory was owed by McFadden, a man who answered the phone and identified himself as the owner of Guild Quilting would only say, “A lot.”