NEW YORK — William Reid and Tony Smith are making a return to business for spring, special delivery.
The designers, who operate their signature businesses in a partnership between the labels, had closed their company in January when their initial backer pulled out following Sept. 11. After seven months of researching other deals, the duo has now structured a minority interest deal with a pair of private investors from Atlanta: two retired UPS workers who were looking to invest in a fashion company.
"They’re in shipping," Smith said wryly during an interview Friday morning at their new showroom at 548 West 28th Street, two floors above the showroom they had shut down early this year.
"Of all the things I’ve been involved with, this is the most realistic plan I’ve seen," said Smith, who designs his signature women’s collection, as well as a women’s line under the William Reid label. Reid designs his own men’s collection, which won the Perry Ellis Award for men’s wear in 2001.
"This deal is structured so that we can grow slowly, and this way, we don’t have to be everything to everyone," said Reid. "It gives us the backup to secure production and marketing, which is important."
In their previous venture, which was three seasons old, Smith and Reid handled much of their own production with staff in-house, which they plan to continue to do using freelance help. The former collections had grown into a wholesale business of $1.5 million last year, with the introduction of shoes and bags last fall. But after they showed their well-received spring collection a day before the terrorist attacks, they were unable to make up the business that was lost to the canceled sales appointments that week.
Smith and Reid expect their relaunch will quickly match last year’s numbers and that they could revive the shoe line by fall. Part of their confidence lies in the fact that they made the decision to close the former company with enough time to cancel existing production and orders so that few retailers were impacted or left with outstanding debts from the company. In a few cases where they still owe money or merchandise to stores, Smith said, they will honor those debts with credits.The relaunched collections, which will be shown during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on Sept. 21 at 3 p.m., will be priced similarly to the previous lines, with printed T-shirts wholesaling from $19 to $30, tops at $75 to $150 and pants from $75 to $175.
"When we left off for spring, the line had a Southern, country club thing going on," said Smith. "This season, it’s a little more misty and sophisticated. A lot of references come from the swamps and voodoo, with a mystical and romantic feeling."
Reid, who was born in Florence, Ala., and grew up in southern Louisiana, was also inspired by his surroundings when he headed home during the collections’ hiatus. Driving to the airport in Alabama to meet a potential investor, he said, he noticed a sign on the side of the road that said: "Setbacks only pave the way for comebacks."
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