NEW YORK — Patrick Robinson’s spring collection for Perry Ellis International has become the ultimate example of an exercise in fashion futility.
George Feldenkreis, chief executive officer of PEI, said Tuesday the company will not go ahead with deliveries of the designer-priced line to high-end retailers in the wake of Robinson’s resignation on Monday. While the so-called Perry Ellis Signature line is history, the fate of the separate better-priced Perry Ellis women’s sportswear line licensed to Public Clothing Co. is less certain, as Feldenkreis said PEI and Public remain in negotiations.
Robinson’s decision to quit came after a six-month saga of contract negotiations and questions of creative control that ultimately resulted in the designer changing his employment in September from the licensee, which delivered a more mainstream product to department stores, to join PEI, which said it would produce the tonier Signature collection on its own when a group of powerful stores said they were interested in carrying the line.
Feldenkreis said he was upset with Robinson’s sudden decision to leave, as PEI had sided with the designer when he complained that Public Clothing would not produce the trendier looks he was designing and had invested a considerable sum in setting up the second collection, the first time PEI was to produce its own women’s wear.
Retailers who had gotten behind Robinson’s campaign to refresh the Perry Ellis label reacted with what could be described as a collective shrug, having little to lose, in this case, as the merchandise had not yet arrived at the stores, and having grown inured to designer contract disputes following the recent examples of Tom Ford and Jil Sander.
“Patrick was doing his own line,” Feldenkreis said. “His resignation was not over a clash about stylistic direction. He informed us he was going to get another job and he was not going to make another line. As a consequence of that, we have called all the retailers to tell them we are not going to go forward with a Perry Ellis Signature line.”
PEI’s attempts at relaunching the Perry Ellis name in women’s wear have been troublesome, while its men’s wear continues to perform at the top of the contemporary market. Strength in its men’s wear brands, including Perry Ellis and the hot Original Penguin label, helped the firm more than quadruple its profits for the third quarter ended Oct. 31. Robinson’s work on the brand was the first time it had been heralded in women’s wear since its sportswear was discontinued in 1993, seven years after the death of designer Perry Ellis.
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