NEW YORK — William L. McComb hosted his first annual shareholders meeting not in Liz Claiborne Inc.’s North Bergen, N.J., headquarters where it’s typically held, but at the Liz Claiborne brand showroom at 1441 Broadway here.
Claiborne’s chief executive officer called his venue choice “a symbolic gesture” representing the company’s focus on product, as he, president Trudy Sullivan and Michael Scarpa, chief operating officer and chief financial officer, sat between mannequins modeling the firm’s namesake brand.
More than 50 shareholders, company officers and reporters came to hear what was largely a rehashing of Claiborne’s grim first-quarter earnings call two weeks earlier, when the company reported that earnings crashed 65.5 percent.
“As someone from outside the fashion industry, I also believe I can bring a level of objectivity to the company — and its strategies — that will be critical at a time of such intense industry change,” McComb said.
He again told his May 1 story about Claiborne’s “tale of two cities.” While the $4.99 billion firm’s retail side is enjoying double-digit sales growth with expanding square footage and increasing doors, the wholesale side is facing “significant challenges,” including retailers’ reliance on private and exclusive brands, decreased consumer demand for traditional better and bridge sportswear and department stores’ new strategy of improving “natural margins.”
“For the upcoming fall season, we’re de-emphasizing volume, instead focusing our efforts on making actual department store buys work harder,” McComb said. “While this change will be good for the business overall, it will hurt 2007 profitability.”
McComb postponed detailing the firm’s growth strategy until the promised July 11 half-day investor meeting, during which he promised to lay out details for the next three to 10 years.
During the question-and-answer portion, two shareholders asked McComb about the fit and styles of particular lines, including the men’s Claiborne line and women’s Liz Claiborne brand.
“I couldn’t get enough of Liz Claiborne many, many years ago, but I am no longer a customer,” said one woman. “I would like to continue to support Liz Claiborne, if it supports me in style and color.”McComb, who chose the Liz Claiborne brand’s showroom venue to accentuate his focus on creating “irresistible product,” said he was “proud to hear shareholders come to talk about product.”
A People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals representative called on Claiborne to enact a permanent no-fur policy for all of its brands, five of which in its 40-plus portfolio use real fur. McComb stood by the use of fur in brands like Juicy Couture, Ellen Tracy and Dana Buchman.
“Because our brands range in price point and lifestyle, there are those at the upper better and bridge price points that use fur and feel they need to have fur on their lines to meet competitive and consumer demands,” said McComb. “That said, we did decide to discontinue the use of real fur on both apparel and accessories for those brands that we sell at the better price point or below. This was executed beginning with the fall 2007 season.”
The PETA spokesman also applauded Claiborne for not using merino wool from Australia, where, according to PETA, the backsides of lambs are mutilated in a procedure called “mulesing” — the result of a previous dialogue with PETA. McComb invited a representative from PETA to address Claiborne’s design community in late July.
In other business, Mary Kay Haben’s term as a director expired Thursday, while directors Kenneth P. Kopelman, Raul J. Fernandez and Arthur C. Martinez were reelected by an 80 percent shareholder vote. At the same time, shareholders rejected adopting a proposal to change board elections from requiring a plurality to requiring a majority vote.
Chairman emeritus Paul Charron, the face of Claiborne’s annual shareholders meetings for the past decade, was not in attendance because he was vacationing in Nantucket.
“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