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NEW YORK — In the latest twist to the saga of Perry Ellis as a sportswear label, design consultant Patrick Robinson resigned his position Monday after a tumultuous clash with management over stylistic direction.

Robinson’s resignation raises questions over the future of Perry Ellis as a women’s wear brand and over the commitment of Public Clothing Co., its licensee, to developing the label in the better-priced market. There was speculation Monday that the better line might have been shuttered. Wendy Chivian, who had been president of the Perry Ellis division at Public Clothing, has left to take a similar position at Sean John (see related story this page).

Officials at both Perry Ellis International and Public Clothing could not be reached for comment Monday.

Wendy Chivian, who had been president of the Perry Ellis division at Public Clothing, has left to take a similar position at Sean John (see related story,Wendy Chivian Exits Perry Ellis, Joins Sean John).

Officials at both Perry Ellis International and Public Clothing could not be reached for comment Monday.

Robinson is said to be jumping to a Paris-based design house, possibly one of the Puig-owned labels. He said he had quit the job at PEI — where he was officially a consultant since the day after his last collection was shown in September — and that he had accepted another position, but would not reveal where. One possibility would be Paco Rabanne, where sources familiar with the company have indicated the Puig-owned company might be looking to make a creative change.

Mario Grauso, president of Carolina Herrera, added oversight of Puig’s other fashion concerns, Nina Ricci and Rabanne, last month. Rosemary Rodriguez was passed the design baton from designer-cum-futurist Rabanne himself during the Paris collections in October.

“This has been a fantastic opportunity for me,” Robinson said. “It’s reestablished me as a designer and doing that with as wonderful a brand as Perry Ellis has been phenomenal. But I don’t think I’ve ever gotten along with the suits.

“I’m really thrilled to have had the chance to design for Perry Ellis,” Robinson said. “That’s from the heart. What I knew and found out about Perry Ellis the person has been fascinating. For that last three seasons, what I’ve been able to learn has just been phenomenal. I accomplished a great deal just by coming here, helping to reestablish the women’s brand as an important player in the retail market.”

This story first appeared in the November 30, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Robinson, in his own career revival, first became connected to the Perry Ellis brand two years ago as the designer of a women’s collection for the better market, licensed to Public Clothing.

Although the image of the label had become more traditional since the days when Marc Jacobs designed there in the mid-Nineties, Robinson delivered a fresh take with mismatched tweed separates that resonated with editors and high-end retailers, but not necessarily the management of the licensee or the company that owns the Perry Ellis name.

Robinson complained that his early work for Public was watered down by the manufacturer for mass consumption at department stores, even though he suspected there would be a customer willing to pay higher prices for his designs. In September, after months of difficult negotiations between the designer and the two companies, Robinson showed his third collection for Perry Ellis to rave reviews, but the ongoing dispute meant the line was never intended to be produced.

But Robinson’s gamble — showing the line anyway — paid off, as Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus all demanded to carry it, pressuring PEI to resolve its differences with Robinson. He then became a consultant to PEI, which would produce the runway collection separately, while Public Clothing decided to go on its own with the better sportswear.

Robinson said he had not yet discussed with those retailers his plan to leave Perry Ellis on Monday.

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