Warnaco Redefines Its Brands

Under Tom Wyatt, president of the Warnaco Intimate Apparel Group, the company is repositioning its core brands. Here's how.

NEW YORK — A new era of innovation, creativity and marketing savvy is unfolding at The Warnaco Group.

This story first appeared in the March 10, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Warnaco has aggressive plans to reposition its core intimate apparel brands in 2003 for maximum results in solidifying retail partnerships and regaining its credibility in the financial community.

That’s the word from Tom Wyatt, president of the Warnaco Intimate Apparel Group, who said last week in an interview at the Warnaco offices at 90 Park Avenue that he has no intention of selling off the company’s bread-and-butter intimates businesses.

Wyatt reiterated what he told WWD in October: “This is a new Warnaco. The old Warnaco is gone.”

Wyatt said he is heading the launch of several key initiatives that he and his new team of executives believe will put the Warner’s, Olga, Lejaby and Body by Nancy Ganz shapewear brands back on track with innovative new product that’s been updated and edited for fashion, comfort and quality. As part of the new image, the Body Slimmers by Nancy Ganz name was renamed Body by Nancy Ganz to revitalize the brand’s persona and broaden a consumer base to include a younger, more contemporary customer.

This ambitious goal got the green light following Warnaco’s emergence from Chapter 11 proceedings Feb. 4, in which the company remains intact under the stewardship of chief restructuring officer Tony Alvarez, 20 months after declaring bankruptcy. The company also closed on a $275 million exit financing facility, of which the initial draw was $39 million.

For the 11 months ended Nov. 30, Warnaco recorded a net loss of $927.5 million on revenues of $1.12 billion. The loss included $787.8 million from the cumulative effect of a change in accounting.

The company did report an operating profit before reorganization costs of $18.8 million in the 11-month period, but $88.1 million in reorganization items contributed to an operating loss of $69.3 million. Excluding interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and reorganization expenses, the company recorded profits of $79.3 million.

Wyatt has named three new executives to oversee the creative, design and merchandising areas, as well as sales and marketing. He noted that he has “great confidence” in the company’s new direction.

“Our team has been wonderful helping us change the structure of the designer [foundations] group to be more focused on the end-use of consumer product and delineate the products and brands from each other,” said Wyatt. “It starts with product. If we don’t deliver on consumer expectation, then the brand has failed.”

John Wagstaff has been named vice president of sales of Warnaco’s Intimate Apparel Division. For four years, he was president and ceo of two Reebok divisions: Greg Norman Sportswear and Reebok Golf Division. From 1990 to 1997, Wagstaff was president of the U.S. wholesale division of Coach.

Michael Schornstein, who was named senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the intimates operation, was vice president of marketing for Haggar Clothing Co., overseeing brands such as the licensed Claiborne Pants and DKNY Pants businesses and the Haggar label since 1990. Earlier, Schornstein was vice president of marketing and advertising for Lee Jeans at VF Corp. for two years.

Also part of the new format is Joyce Baran, tapped as vice president of creative design for Warnaco’s core intimates brands. Baran, a 20-year veteran of the intimate apparel industry at companies including the licensed Liz Claiborne Intimates at Jockey International, Smoothie by Strouse, Adler and Warner’s, joined the company in September.

Bridging the gap of the new Warnaco with the old Warnaco is David H. Clark, president of Warnaco’s Intimate Apparel division. Clark has held numerous executive posts at Warnaco for more than 20 years and is considered an integral part of the retail partnership initiative.

In terms of marketing and advertising, Warnaco’s new image is being molded by Ziccardi Partners Frierson Mee, a large advertising agency with offices in New York and Paris that handles accounts such as Ellen Tracy and YM Magazine. The ad firm has created a new marketing package of videos outlining the updated message and look of the Warner’s, Olga and Body by Nancy Ganz labels.

Wyatt said the repositioning of the brands, which is expected to be at stores in August, will be a 12- to 18-month “work in progress” and will include new point-of-sale materials and hangtags. Budgets have not been finalized, but Wyatt said an initial estimate of $3 million to $4 million would be “significantly increased.” This does not include an additional price tag of more than $100 million for extensive consumer market research.

The Warner’s logo is clean and minimalistic, and aimed at the practical, busy woman with taglines like “Essentials with Spirited Flair,” and “Warner’s Pleases Her Needs With an Element of Surprise and Inspiration.”

The Olga logo is scripted in a sophisticated manner aimed at a woman who is fashion-conscious and prefers luxury goods. Taglines include “Everyday Exquisite,” and “Olga Brings a Special Touch To Her Daily Routine Through Femininity and Elegance.”

Body by Nancy Ganz is purposely quirky in contrasting black and white letters. It was designed to attract a younger, hipper consumer with taglines including “Empower Your Style” and “Body Is Not About Body Solution; It’s About Fashion, Enhancement and Confidence.”

Combined sales of the 61-year-old Olga brand and the 128-year-old Warner’s name is $250 million, split evenly, said Wyatt. In October, Wyatt predicted the Olga panties business was expected to grow to $50 million from $10 million by 2004. The newly renamed Body by Nancy Ganz is currently generating yearly sales at retail of $40 million. Wyatt said he believes the shapers business could “easily double” in two years.

Plans are also in the works to rehaul the upscale Lejaby French label in foundations, said David Clark.

“It’s a $100 million business [in Europe],” Clark said. “We plan to introduce a secondary label by the end of 2003.”

Last fall, Wyatt noted that annual sales for the Lejaby bra brand in the U.S. are projected to reach $30 million to $50 million over the next couple of years. Distribution will be aimed at major specialty stores as well as a select number of department stores.

Meanwhile, the long-awaited announcement of who will succeed Alvarez as ceo remains.

Wyatt said the decision was “imminent,” but would not elaborate. As reported, Wyatt, along with two other key divisional heads, are on the short list to fill the top slot: John Kourakos, who oversees the Sportswear and Calvin Klein Underwear units, and Roger Williams, who is in charge of sister company Authentic Fitness.