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NEW YORK — Rena Lange founders Peter and Renate Günthert are handing over control of the Munich, Germany-based ready-to-wear line to their son, Daniel, but will stay involved with the company as senior consultants.
This story first appeared in the August 13, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The 33-year-old Daniel Günthert — who has worked for his parents since 1996 — is now the third-generation leader of the company since his great aunt, Martha Lange, started it in 1916 as a lingerie boutique in the Palais Moy on Briennerstrasse in Munich. It’s the same retail location that today serves as the Rena Lange boutique, in addition to 16 others throughout Europe.
In 1953, Peter Günthert took the reins from his aunt, who had no children of her own, and launched his first Lange custom-made collection. Around the same time, he met Renate, whom he later married, and the two joined forces to design and run the atelier. In 1982, the Güntherts repositioned the company to be a ready-to-wear line specializing in tailored clothing and renamed it Rena Lange, after Renate.
Daniel Günthert, in an interview on Thursday, said the generation change requires new management, new design and rejuvenation.
“But we don’t want to alienate the established consumer because it’s our core,” Günthert said. “Our new products are appreciated by the existing customer, as well as a new customer.”
The brand, which sticks to its European roots, has kept a low profile in the U.S. as it caters to a slightly older set with suits geared toward society women. However, the youthful ceo said he expects to expand U.S. business by 10 percent in 2003 and push the brand to be more item-driven, while still offering the classic suits that have become the company’s signature. Industry estimates peg the company’s sales at around $50 million.
To do this, Günthert enlisted Irish designer James Waldron last year, who’s subtle changes to the line began to be seen with the fall collection that bowed last week at Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, where the company has in-store shops. Additionally, Rena Lange is also sold in 13 Neiman Marcus doors and about 35 specialty stores nationwide.
Making for an overall updated look, the collection features more novelty fabrics, such as tweeds, cotton jacquards, damasks and prints, as well as fringe details like ribbon trims and fashion elements such as novelty trousers and glass buttons. This is also the first time the company has offered a resort collection.
“I don’t think we will ever get too far away from suits. It’s our bread and butter,” said Tracy Welch, president of Rena Lange USA. “But we want to expand our offering to be more separates- and item-driven than ever before. It’s a nice, quiet business, but we do not want to be known for that anymore.”
To illustrate her point, Welch cited a bustier with flower appliqué and a suede blush-color ruffle jacket as items that sold well from the resort collection. She also added that prices have been brought down about 15 percent to be more competitive. The general wholesale price range for Rena Lange is between $850 and $1,400.
In another new step for the company, Welch said it took out four-page inserts in the August issue of Town & Country and the September issue of Vogue.
Günthert said the company’s conservative forecast for 2003 is to grow worldwide revenue by 10 percent. While he had no details about when, Günthert also said the company plans to enter the Mideast market, where he said their presence is virtually nonexistent.