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Eddie Bauer Heads Down to Rockefeller Center

Eddie Bauer, the casual apparel firm, is out from under the corporate wing of Spiegel Inc. and has big plans for the holidays.

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NEW YORK — Eddie Bauer has big plans for the holidays.

The Redmond, Wash.-based casual apparel firm is on its own and eager to flourish. Eddie Bauer became a stand-alone company after its former parent, Spiegel Inc., emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy on June 21. According to a spokeswoman at the firm, Eddie Bauer has begun the process of registering with the Securities and Exchange Commission to become a public company on its own.

While those applications are being considered, Eddie Bauer is stirring up some big holiday plans. On Oct. 20, it will open a temporary boutique specializing in down outerwear and other products on the concourse level of Rockefeller Center here. The 1,100-square-foot space will offer a special collection of Eddie Bauer merchandise, all made of down. There will be traditional down jackets for women, men, children and pets, as well as a collection of accessories from handbags to scarves to iPod cases.

“I was told I could create anything I wanted with down for this project,” said Stephen Cirona, Eddie Bauer’s vice president of design. “Whatever we could do with it, we did.”

Cirona said he joined the company a year ago specifically because of the company’s heritage. He worked at Tommy Hilfiger from 1996 to 2001, rising from vice president, creative, to executive vice president, men’s global creative director. Prior to joining Eddie Bauer, Cirona was president and principal director of Stephen Cirona New York Inc., where he created custom clothing for celebrities including Harry Connick Jr. and Alan Cumming.

Started by Eddie Bauer himself in 1920 in Seattle, the company patented the quilted down jacket, which became its signature item. Over the past few years, the company has had many fits and starts, and has pared down its retail operation. Financial sources have estimated Bauer’s retail, catalogue and online businesses generate about $1.25 billion in annual sales.

“The heritage of this company just blew me away,” said Cirona. “Eddie invented the down jacket and his invention has had this lasting effect on American sportswear. So I knew I wanted to be a part of this.”

Cirona said the new boutique will introduce the brand in a modern way, while still capitalizing on the item that started it all.

This story first appeared in the September 28, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“There will be items in the store that people do not expect to see from us,” he said. “Like with the zip-out shearling vest, MP3 cases and coin purses. It’s really a new way to look at the products that we make.”

Almost all items found in the temporary store will be available in other Eddie Bauer retail locations, except for a few pieces such as the children’s outerwear and a fake fur and down throw. Items in the store retail from $29.50 for a hat to $500 for a shearling jacket.

To provide an extra service to holiday shoppers and tourists, there will be a Web kiosk set up in the store for online purchasing of all Eddie Bauer products. Shipping will be free on all orders.

“This idea isn’t really a testing ground, but more of a way for people to see Eddie Bauer in a new light,” Cirona stressed.

In addition to this retail location, Eddie Bauer operates 400 stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. In Manhattan, it has three locations on the Upper East Side, Upper West Side and in SoHo. It closed a store near Grand Central Terminal two years ago.

In addition to the temporary retail location, which will close on Dec. 31, the company will sponsor the opening party of the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink on Oct. 20. Party goers will be treated to a performance by nine-time Grammy Award winner Sheryl Crow.

“New York City is such a melting pot of cultures and of fashion,” Cirona explained of the company’s choice to open the down boutique in Manhattan. “Rockefeller Center is a gateway to the rest of the country. For us to be there during the holiday season puts us there at the height of it all. We really wanted to be a part of that energy.”

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