Biegel to Launch Peter Millar Clothing

Rich Biegel has returned to the business to launch Peter Millar tailored clothing under a licensing agreement with Empire Clothing of Canada.

NEW YORK — The Biegel has landed.

Rich Biegel, former president of HMX Tailored and a 30-year industry veteran, has returned to the business to launch Peter Millar tailored clothing under a licensing agreement with Empire Clothing of Canada. Biegel will serve as president of the Peter Millar Tailored Clothing division at Empire, overseeing sales and merchandise.

“We really wanted to get into this business with someone who knows how to make clothes,” said Scott Mahoney, CEO of Peter Millar, a sportswear line founded in 2001. “We had connections to him, and thought he was a perfect fit.”

Until July of this year, Biegel had been a longtime employee of Hartmarx, joining the company right out of college, and working his way up to president of the Hart Schaffner Marx brand and then of the entire division, HMX Tailored. He declined to discuss his departure, but HMX Tailored, which includes the company’s stable of mid-tier licenses, has been under pressure in the last few years, and the company has been clear about its intention to significantly downplay that segment of the tailored clothing market, citing stiff competition, margin pressure and soft demand.

Peter Millar, a sportswear brand that will post more than $20 million in sales in 2007, a 45 percent gain, presents a new challenge for Biegel. “It’s an opportunity for me to be more entrepreneurial,” said Biegel. “That’s exciting.”

The deal may be the next chapter for Peter Millar and its new partner, but there are links to Hartmarx. Chris Knott, Peter Millar’s founder, worked at Hartmarx as a salesman 15 years ago. After hearing of Biegel’s departure from HMX Tailored, Knott approached him about launching a tailored line for Peter Millar, and asked Biegel to find a licensing partner. Biegel turned to Empire, a company he worked with during his time at Hartmarx. At the time, both companies held licenses for Tommy Hilfiger clothing—Hartmarx’s for distribution in the U.S., Empire’s for Canada.

“I know Empire and their standards of quality,” Biegel explained.

The collection will be sold to better specialty stores and Nordstrom alongside the brand’s better sportswear and includes up to 100 suit and sport coat swatches as well as trousers and topcoats. The model, designed to fit a broad customer base, will “be classic with a touch of cool,” according to Biegel. The suits, which will retail between $795 and $895, have modern details like contrast pocket and collar linings, and sport coats have throat-latches and elbow patches. The line will launch at the New York Haberdashery Show in January.

This is Empire Clothing’s first branded license for the U.S. market. The family-run company makes Kenneth Cole and Tommy Hilfiger clothing for the Canadian market and private label apparel for the U.S.