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Stephen Fairchild : U.S. Bound

MILAN — Stephen Fairchild is coming home, sort of.<br><br>The American-born designer, now based in Brussels, has built his business with distribution mainly in Italy. But his apparel collection, approaching its third season this spring, will now...

MILAN — Stephen Fairchild is coming home, sort of.

This story first appeared in the September 17, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The American-born designer, now based in Brussels, has built his business with distribution mainly in Italy. But his apparel collection, approaching its third season this spring, will now be sold in the U.S. for the first time.

“It’s my homeland and DNA, but I’ve always said that I wouldn’t tackle the U.S. market until we were completely ready,” said Fairchild. “Now we have the right price points and the structure to deliver on time, two requisites that are fundamental for America.”

Fairchild, 41, began his career in fashion working for such houses as Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Polo Ralph Lauren and Valentino. His company is a joint venture formed with the $252 million Mariella Burani Fashion Group.

By the end of 2004, Fairchild’s aim is to have hit $20 million in sales and to count at least 300 points of sale worldwide.

To reach that goal, American distribution will be handled by Enrico Libani, an agent who runs an eponymous showroom in New York. “[Libani] will present the collection to key stores in the next couple of weeks and will set up our U.S distribution,” said Fairchild. “Our target is to secure between 50 and 60 points of sale by next season, ideally a mix of department stores and specialty boutiques like Fred Segal. I’d rather not be relegated to a corner with a million other designers and be told that if the clothes don’t sell, it’s my fault.”

Currently, the line is carried in 45 stores in Italy, a figure Fairchild expects to double in a year’s time. It is available at Brown’s in London as well, and starting with spring, the collection will also roll out to the Benelux countries.

“With 80 percent sell-through at full price and numerous reorders each season, our relationship with the stores is becoming more solid each day,” said Fairchild, who is the son of former Fairchild Publications chairman John B. Fairchild.

The spring collection spotlights individual pieces to be mixed and matched, blending military influences, sporty chic, distressed fabrics, sexy fits and ethnic or romantic details.

“I’m learning from my mistakes. So with this collection, I was much more reflective, making sure that it was focused and not repetitive,” said Fairchild.

Retail prices run from $125 for pants to $350 for jackets. In the works for Fairchild’s company are an accessories collection, a fragrance and the opening of a new showroom in London.