After a four-year hiatus, designer Cynthia Steffe is back in the contemporary business with a new label, Cluny.
With financing from August Silk, Steffe will introduce a contemporary collection this month, aimed at stores such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Steffe and her husband, Rick Roberts, left Bernard Chaus Inc. in 2006 over a contract dispute, and her namesake label remained with Chaus, which continues to offer a Cynthia Steffe collection, designed by creative director Shaun Kearney.During their time away — which included a one-year non-compete in the sportswear market — the couple consulted for stores such as Lord & Taylor. “I sat out a year with the non-compete and worked on private label, accessories, Christmas ornaments and candles,” said Steffe in an interview at her new offices at 499 Seventh Avenue.
Steffe said when she left Chaus, she never thought she’d stay away so long.
“We left Cynthia Steffe with every intention of starting a business, but then came 2008 and 2009, and the sky was falling in this industry. We decided it wasn’t a good time,” said Steffe. She said all along, they kept talking to people and stayed in touch with retailers and industry friends. About eight months ago, they were approached by August Silk, which has extensive manufacturing facilities in China, and they decided to launch the Cluny division.
“The wonderful thing about designing with August Silk is they’ve got an incredible sourcing arm in the Far East,” said Steffe. “They’re totally vertical and we can create our own yarns and put the contents together.”
Steffe, who will be spending a great deal of time in China, has hired a three-person design team, and is using August Silk’s production and financial staffs.
Steffe explained that August Silk wanted to diversify and expand its portfolio, and the Cluny division is an entry for them into the contemporary area.
According to Steffe, Cluny will be merchandised at the opening price point in the contemporary area, housed near lines such as Alice + Olivia.
“It’s very novelty-driven, contemporary with a feminine edge,” the designer said. “I’ve developed a customer base that’s on the girly side, and the younger side.”
The collection features easy dressing with an edge, incorporating lots of streetwear references such as leather leggings, oversize knits and jackets. There’s a fur-collar black leather jacket, a Mongolian fur vest, a brown leather fur collar jacket, and a rabbit jacket with fox sleeves that can be easily thrown over the more feminine dresses, which range from black or cream lace tiered ones, to an olive style with silver embroidered detail. Several of the day-to-evening pieces have crochet embellishments, such as a gray cotton maxidress with crochet sleeves and back detail. For fall, the collection wholesales from $49 for a simple T-shirt to $199 for a dress. Fur and leather jackets will be priced higher. The company’s label is designed with the name Cluny (which is a type of lace) printed on a piece of lace.
Roberts said he and Steffe will provide the creative, marketing and sales expertise, while August Silk provides good infrastructure with its financial and production arm.
Despite her fashion career’s ups and downs, Steffe has proven to have resilience. After graduating from Parsons The New School for Design in 1981, where she won the Golden Thimble award for fashion design during her senior year, she worked for the Anne Klein Co. as an assistant to Donna Karan and Louis Dell’Olio. She left in 1983 to become head designer at Spitalnick, a then start-up sportswear company headed by Irving Spitalnick, where she worked for six years and helped establish the company as a major brand in the bridge sector. She left in 1989 to launch her business with Roberts. In 2000, they licensed the Cynthia Steffe name to the Leslie Fay Cos. The division, which was doing about $20 million in business at one point, had to extricate itself from Leslie Fay, which had gone out of business, and sold their label for an estimated $5 million to Chaus in 2004. They admitted it wasn’t the best plan to sell Steffe’s name, but they wanted to keep their employees working. In 2006, the label was doing around $30 million, and the business was profitable.
“All the retailers made money with us,” said Roberts.
He projected that Cluny will do around $5 million in wholesale volume in its first year. Monthly deliveries of about 25 pieces will begin in July. Roberts added that distribution will be selective. “I’m keeping it very focused. As we grow, we’ll layer in more basic pieces. But [at retail] it’s the special pieces a woman doesn’t have that are selling,” said Steffe.
Steffe plans to market the line with personal appearances at the stores, as well as advertising, blogs and Twitter. Eventually, they will launch a Web site.
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
Not only does #TheProfit return to CNBC tonight, but @marcuslemonis has launched @shopmarcus, a new shopping and lifestyle retail experience in Aspen and Chicago, with more locations to come. The retail stores offer in-store stylists and a variety of contemporary womenswear selections.
“It’s life, I’m going to face it,” @mingxi11 sighed. “I fell, but you know, I think the most important thing is that I get back up. I had the love, the help from my sister — the girl next to me Gizele [Oliveira] — she’s so nice. When I went backstage everybody was trying to comfort me like ‘Oh Ming, it’s OK.’ I’m really, really touched. I think it’s them who gave me the courage to go back on stage for the finale,” Xi told WWD of her fall at the @victoriassecret fashion show. (📷: David Fisher) #wwdfashion #vsfashionshow #victoriassecret
@louisvuitton tapped @therealpeterlindbergh for its latest city-centric photo book, which is part of a series called Fashion Eye. The primarily black and white book captures the spirit of Berlin in 57 images shot between 1989 and 2019. “Berlin is an inspiration for me, more than a city. I mean @millajovovich is simply Berlin!” said Lindbergh. #wwdfashion
“You know, I think audiences expect a certain performance so I have to deliver to them what they’re expecting to a certain degree. But I’m also a different actor and a different person, I have my own spin on the character,” says @noahegalvin of his takeover of the leading role in “Dear Evan Hansen” following the departure of @bensplatt, who originated the role. Read WWD’s interview with the 23-year-old actor on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
For pre-fall 2018, @etro created richly-colored wonderland, using tapestries, textiles and wallpapers from the Eastern world at large. The line featured floral and graphic prints and jacquard motifs, like this two-piece look featured here. #wwdfashion (📷: Giovanna Pavesi)
@kith is moving into children’s. The men’s and women’s streetwear brand has launched Kidset, a Kith kids line located in New York at 64 Bleecker Street. The line includes mini versions of staple Kith pieces like the Astor bomber jacket and the Kith box logo sweatshirts, along with a wall that can display up to 120 pairs of shoes from @adidas, @newbalance, @timberland and more. #wwdfashion
“I just wanted to create this fully rounded character, but I do think what excited me most was just the opportunity to give a group of people representation that I feel needs it. I like to do characters in projects that stand for something and Karolina definitely does, so that was really exciting to me,” @ginnygardner says of her new role in @hulu’s “The Runaways.” Gardner plays Karolina Dean, a queer superhero, which is a rarity for @marvel. Read more about Gardner’s character on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @dandoperalski)