A.B.S. Inks North American Deal

The company founded by Allen Schwartz has licensed Montreal-based Corwik Inc. to manufacture and market the brand in the U.S. and Canada.

An ABS by Allen Schwartz dress on the Bloomingdale's Web site.

Allen Schwartz has found his North American sportswear soulmate.

This story first appeared in the November 14, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz, the company founded by Schwartz, has licensed Montreal-based Corwik Inc. to manufacture and market A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz sportswear in the U.S. and Canada. The agreement, which also includes the midtier A.B.S. Platinum brand, carries a three-year term with several renewal options.

“Our goal is to hit a broad audience, and Corwik knows how to source and service that market,” Schwartz told WWD. “Essentially, all I want to manufacture are A.B.S. dresses and the denim-driven Blue Pearl fashion brand. I want to get more distribution out of my brands and, with my efforts focused on stores like Bloomingdale’s, Saks and Nordstrom, that’s been a challenge for me.”

The designer, perhaps best known for his ability to rapidly reproduce red-carpet gowns at affordable prices, noted that he and partner Armand Marciano, working with licensing consultant Lou Schneider, have built a roster of 14 licensees. In addition to A.B.S. and Blue Pearl, he markets Privé, a line of less expensive dresses, and, through a licensing arrangement with J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Allen B.

“The way I see the business today, the best thing I can do is to keep my product at a high level and enhance the value of the name,” he said. “All the licensees are companies with great capabilities who have a chance to be successful with things that I can’t do. We’ll continue to extend the brand and keep our noses clean.”

Schwartz is a recent convert to the concept of “core competency.” Although he once went as far as producing his own shoes, he’s now licensed E.S. Originals for that category. “I might not be much of a watchmaker, but we found one to license,” he said of his pact with Genesis Time Group.

The Corwik agreement includes all career and casual sportswear categories except denim and activewear. Ayal Twik, Corwik’s vice president, said some product will be available for fall, with a full launch scheduled for spring. Retail price points are expected to range from $110 to $150 for bottoms and $80 to $120 for tops, although exact prices will be set later.

“A.B.S. has always stood for affordable luxury and we plan to continue in that tradition,” Twik said. “We see A.B.S. as the opening price point in contemporary.”

With the bulk of its manufacturing in Asia, Corwik is among the largest apparel marketing firms in Canada and does business throughout the U.S. and Canada with its own brands, which include Katherine Barclay and Renuar, and, through its partnership with Levy Canada Fashion Co., serves as the Canadian men’s and women’s outerwear licensee for brands including Nautica, Perry Ellis and Betsey Johnson. The privately held firm last year had sales of nearly $100 million.

Schwartz said his firm is actively working on licenses for additional categories and is close to signing deals in beauty, fragrances, outerwear and handbags.

“It’s an up-and-down market today,” he added. “It’s no different than Ralph Lauren — he’s got distribution in J.C. Penney and a ton of businesses beyond that.”