Kasper’s former parent, Leslie Fay Co., faces a critical year as it strives to revive itself as a key player under chief executive officer W. John Short, who in March succeeded longtime ceo John Pomerantz, who remains chairman.

Earlier this month, Short told WWD that the fourth quarter has been tough after a strong early fall, but the outlook is brighter.

"Our first quarter looks much better," Short said. "We’re 25 percent ahead in bookings for spring and summer. We’re really focused on enhancing the price-value relationships of all our core brands. There is concern over a potential war with Iraq, but if that does occur, my feeling is that it will be wrapped up quickly."

Leslie Fay signed an exclusive sourcing deal in July with Li & Fung (Trading) Ltd. in which the global trading giant is now fully responsible for all of Leslie Fay’s fabric and manufacturing sourcing worldwide. The firm is preparing for a spring relaunch of its signature sportswear line and a fall 2003 revival of its Outlander label.

Short said apparel sourced by Li & Fung will start hitting the market in spring 2003 for the Leslie Fay Dress and David Warren brands, as well as knitwear and sweaters for the entire company. Li & Fung will source for the rest of Leslie Fay’s divisions, which includes the fast-growing Cynthia Steffe brand, starting in fall 2003.

Leslie Fay’s volume bottomed out at $125 million after it emerged from a four-year stint in Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1997. It has grown to an industry estimated $212 million today, but has a long way to go from a peak of almost $850 million during the early Nineties.

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