Kevin Harter: Adding Character

From Popeye to the Beatles, the VP of fashion direction for men’s has added some interesting characters to Bloomingdale’s product mix over the years.

From Popeye the Sailor Man and the Beatles to Psycho Bunny, Kevin Harter has added some interesting characters to Bloomingdale’s product mix over the past 22 years.

This story first appeared in the December 5, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

But while these unusual collaborations might get the most press, for Harter it’s all about providing balance.
The vice president of fashion direction for men’s scours the world to find the most interesting and relevant brands and collections to add spice to the selling floor. Milan, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Stockholm and Japan are all in his travel budget. He calls it doing “ground intelligence” and says that even after all this time, he’s still “curious about what’s out there.”

But one key point he’s learned over the years is that even if he falls in love with a line, it still has to be right for the Bloomingdale’s man.

“The challenge is that there are some things that I absolutely love and discover, but they’re not right for our customer,” he said. “So that’s always in the back of my mind.”

Harter and his team also work closely with the fashion press to find labels that are bubbling just under the surface. He said for the past five years, the store has worked with GQ magazine on its Best New Designers in America project that often helps him identify new resources.

Among the brands he’s most proud of introducing to the world at large are John Varvatos, which now has a large business with the store, as well as new additions Billy Reid and Ovadia & Sons. For spring, Adam Kimmel will be added to stores on the West Coast.

Harter said what he finds most rewarding is unearthing new labels. “I love championing new designers,” he said. Providing them with windows, including them in the store’s ad campaigns and hosting events “really help introduce them.”

“Mike Gould has instilled in me a sense of balance,” said Harter, who also looks after fashion for kids and home furnishings. “We work to find classic brands and more contemporary designer brands — some big and some small, special brands.”