NEW YORK — It's immediately clear walking into Warren Donner's showroom on the seventh floor of 1412 Broadway here. He is anything but subtle.
There is the huge fish tank of exotic sea creatures just arrived from Hawaii, the feng shui-arranged waiting room and the gigantic ad from WD NY's holiday collection on the wall with a framed lace-trimmed camisole beside it — the company's first bestseller.
And that's just the showroom entrance. Donner himself appears — dark, slicked-back hair, jeans ("I never wear anything else"), an untucked (and half-way unbuttoned) shirt and velvet blazer, all topped off with enough jewelry to keep the men's accessories industry in business for years. And how did he get to work — pre-transit strike? In his bright, yellow Corvette, of course.
Donner, who is president, and his partners, Edward Zhu, chairman and chief executive officer, and Jerry Boyle, creative director, in two years have built a business that generates more than $60 million in annual wholesale volume and sells to more than 2,000 department store and better specialty doors nationwide.
The three met when they worked together at HMS Productions, a private label apparel company here. They decided to leave together in mid-2003 to begin WD NY. Donner controls the selling, Zhu is in charge of manufacturing and sourcing and Boyle leads a team of designers in the creative direction of the collections.
WD NY opened in October 2003 and shipped its first line in January 2004. To launch the holiday collection, the company made an aggressive outdoor advertising push, hanging a huge billboard in Times Square and showcasing its ads on phone kiosks across New York City.
"We started this line at the perfect time," Donner explained. "It's fashion for the misses' customer. It looks contemporary, but hangs in the better area of department stores and fits the real woman. This is product that this customer has never seen in better."
For spring and summer, the WD NY line includes an array of printed skirts, tanks, T-shirts and Victorian-inspired lace tops. There's also the kimono-sleeve printed silk tops to easily be paired with jeans or solid skirts. The line wholesales from $14 for a cotton and spandex lace-trimmed camisole to $59 for a beaded and embroidered jacket."We are in a fashion cycle now, so stores are always asking for new things from us," Boyle said. "Novelty skirts and the lace-trimmed tops have been big sellers for us so far."
Going forward into fall, Boyle said he sees a trend toward black and more Gothic looks. So he came up with a series of long, black skirts, some with beading and embroidery, others with wrinkle detailing. In the knit area, there's the cropped crochet cardigans and sweaters with built-in necklaces made in the same fabric.
And with a quick turn from factory to retail floor, Donner said he has developed close relationships with retailers such as Federated, Dillard's, Saks Inc., Nordstrom and Parisian. The company is able to get product into the stores within weeks because of its owned and operated 300,000-square-foot factory, located outside Shanghai. The $200 million facility employs more than 2,000 people. Donner said the company is breaking ground on an extension that will specialize in knitwear and printing.
"Our manufacturing capabilities allow us to make just about anything, really," Donner said.
In addition to the WD NY better sportswear collection, the knitwear line, a social separates division called WD NY Black, the private label lines it produces (one is Fresh Twist for Lord & Taylor) and a new WD NY Woman line launching in February, Donner has even more in the works.
There's a line of accessories and costume jewelry planned for a March launch along with a freestanding store plan to begin that same month.
"We plan to open a lot of stores over time," Donner said. "But for now, we are starting with two."
A 3,600-square-foot store will open in Englewood, N.J., in March. Another, also planned for a March opening, will be a 5,000-square-foot unit in a Shanghai mall.
"We see a lot of potential for our line in China, as well as internationally," Donner said. "So this Shanghai store will be a true test for us."
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