By  on February 3, 1994

NEW YORK -- Christian Dior said this week it is close to naming a new hosiery licensee and expects to keep the brand going in the legwear market without any pause.

Hampshire Group announced last week that it was giving up the license for Christian Dior Hosiery with the completion of spring deliveries.

According to Beatrice Du Pont, vice president for women's licensed products at Christian Dior Inc., the U.S. arm of the French fashion house, negotiations have been in the works with other hosiery manufacturers.

"Christian Dior Hosiery is certainly not going out of business," she said. "It will be business as usual with the line, and we expect an orderly transition. There will be no problems with spring deliveries, and by fall we should be working smoothly with a new licensee."

The packaging and quality of the line, she said, will be consistent with the existing products.

"Hampshire came to us and said that it could no longer keep two plants running as it has in the past," she added. "They were not manufacturing the kind of volume that was necessary to keep up the plant."

As reported, Hampshire plans to close the Belmont, N.C. knitting mill and distribution center where most of the Dior legwear line is manufactured by late March, resulting in the layoffs of 170 Hampshire employees. Dior Hosiery is estimated by industry sources to be a $7 million wholesale business.

According to Ludwig Kuttner, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Hampshire Group and chief executive officer of Hampshire Hosiery, the move reflects the company's decision to focus more on its private label business for the chain, mass merchandise and department store markets.

"Our brand business for department stores was not very important," he said. "In difficult economic times like these, it's important for the company to concentrate on its strengths. Our timing was wrong in developing a branded hosiery business. Pricing in the marketplace from the competition made business extremely difficult."

Hampshire acquired the Dior license with its acquisition of Vision Hosiery in 1991.

"We have a positive, friendly relationship with Christian Dior Inc.," he noted, "and both of us want to keep the business healthy. We are in close cooperation in looking for a new licensee to take up the reins."

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