By  on April 4, 2007

With its name conjuring images of young ballerinas, it may be hard to believe Danskin is 125 years old.

The New York activewear company opened its birthday year with the disclosure that Iconix Brand Group Inc. had purchased its namesake brand for $70 million. The second half of the year will feature anniversary marketing and products, including fall launches of the girls' line Danskin Girl and the contemporary line Danskin 1882 — in honor of the company's founding year.

"We don't want to be thought of as a 125-year-old company," said Carol Hochman, Danskin's chief executive officer. "We want to be perceived as young, fresh and modern."

The company started as an importer of hosiery and dancewear from Europe. Some things have stayed the same — Danskin still has one of its "very first customers, Baum's Dancewear in Philadelphia, which you can attribute to great customer service," Hochman said.

More than a century later, Danskin has expanded and evolved into an estimated $200 million wholesale business that does about 70 percent of its sales in activewear, which it launched in 1980. With activewear, legwear, dancewear, yoga apparel and fitness equipment, the Danskin brand sells in better department, specialty and sporting goods stores, in 15 Danskin boutiques and at danskin.com; the Danskin Now line of apparel and fitness equipment is sold at Wal-Mart.

"The brand does not just live in the dance studio," Hochman said. "Though the product has evolved and the company has evolved, our DNA has stayed true. Dance is feminine, and we've instilled femininity into our products, whereas all of the other active apparel players come from male heritages."

The Iconix deal will not change that, said Hochman, who added she and the rest of the Danskin team would continue managing the production of Danskin products, which Iconix is licensing back to the firm.

"Nothing is going to change here," she said. "Iconix helps us in the back office, adds marketing and brings new people with a new infusion of ideas, which I think is always healthy. It also raises our profile as a company and brand; so many people are watching Iconix, and now we will be part of it."

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