By  on July 9, 2007

Will there be ramifications for the designer lingerie business following Vera Wang's decision to go against the grain and design a secondary line of intimates called Simply Vera, an exclusive label for Kohl's?

The decision to create a lingerie collection for the department store has displeased executives at Macy's, mainly because it and Kohl's have similar price structures and product aimed at the same consumer base, according to industry sources. As a result, Macy's reportedly will not carry the designer lines Vera Wang Lingerie and Vera Wang Body, a collection of foundations slated for fall selling.

Now that Macy's is the nation's second-largest retailer (Wal-Mart is the first) following the Federated-May merger, innerwear firms that design, merchandise and distribute designer lingerie brands might reconsider doing secondary lines that either use a designer's name or a name that is similar. Federated has since been renamed Macy's Inc., and owns the Macy's and Bloomingdale's brands.

Wang's move to create an exclusive lingerie line for Kohl's poses a "direct conflict" with Macy's, according to an executive, who requested anonymity, at the Komar Co., the licensee that produces sleepwear, daywear, at-homewear and foundations bearing the Vera Wang Lingerie and Vera Wang Body labels.

"Vera and Terry Lundgren [president and chief executive of Macy's Inc.] are good friends and even play golf together," said the Komar source. "He advised Vera not to do the Kohl's deal, because he felt there was a conflict of interest for Macy's and for the integrity of the brand. But she decided to do it anyway, and Macy's has decided not to buy Vera's sleepwear or bras, except Bloomingdale's, which is an institution unto itself."

Asked about the Kohl's-Macy's situation, Wang replied, "We were not kicked out of there. We were never there in the first place in sleepwear and foundations, except for Bloomingdale's. In all fairness, we sell a lot of bridal to [Macy's Inc.]. If anything, it [Vera Wang intimates] was not one of their initiatives."

Officials at Macy's could not be reached.

Coincidentally, both the Simply Vera line for Kohl's and the new upscale Vera Wang Body collection for major specialty and department stores are scheduled to be in-store this fall.Norman Katz, a 45-year veteran of the intimate apparel industry, observed, "It will most likely prompt more major stores to reevaluate which designer and premium lingerie labels have the viability and the cachet to pull in customers on the selling floor, and which names will be dropped, whether by lack of performance or a conflict of interest. That sea change will most likely apply even if it's a secondary label that in one way or another is associated with the primary designer name."

But for some major designers such as Isaac Mizrahi, the idea of doing a secondary label for mass distribution to Target was a good idea that has clicked primarily because the cost structure and consumer target were a far cry from his upscale ready-to-wear, which had been temporarily put on hold but is now sold on a selected basis at Bergdorf Goodman.

Despite Macy's absence, hopes are high for the introduction of bras, undies and corsetry by Vera Wang Body, which will join the Vera Wang Lingerie collection of sleepwear and at-homewear at 350 doors of major specialty and department stores this fall. The foundations, which comprise three groups — Trousseau, Everyday Essentials, and Illusions Solution — were shown to retailers at the February market, but officials at Komar did not show the collection to the media until orders were final at the end of June.

As for Wang's take on the foundations line, she said, "My inspiration is always things I would wear myself. In this case, it's very much for me about comfort, and certain signature aspects of [Vera Wang] Collection and Lavender [rtw]. I was hoping I could bring a certain sensuality to the [intimates] collection."

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