TORONTO — After nearly three decades in business, designer Lida Baday, known for her minimalist tailoring that appeals to working women, is closing shop.
The company’s head office in downtown Toronto will wind down operations at the end of June, making Baday’s spring 2014 collection her last.
The decision, according to company president Mario Zuliani, was tough to make both for their employees and Baday’s Canadian and U.S. customers, yet was one of timing.
The lease on the company’s New York office on Fifth Avenue expired at the end of 2013, and Baday and Zuliani remained in negotiations until spring 2014 to settle on an extension. Settling proved to be “a struggle for us,” said Zuliani.
“Lida is very technical and creative. She’s also very hands-on and has played a role in all aspects of the company since it launched in 1987. As the company grew larger, it became increasingly difficult for Lida to be as hands-on as she wanted,” Zuliani said.
Baday and Zuliani, who is her husband, considered restructuring into a smaller business. The process proved much more difficult than the team anticipated.
“At our peak we had 50 people on staff and every person was essential to us. Cutting staff felt like a step backwards. It left us asking ourselves if we could really do this the way we wanted to without them,” said Zuliani.
Today’s tougher economy also impacted the decision to cease operations in Toronto and in the New York office, which is now closed.
“Business has changed in recent years and it’s been challenging. But that’s true for the whole industry,” said Zuliani.
“There are very few retailers that we hear from today that are upbeat about business. They say there’s less traffic in stores and there’s no real consensus why. It’s all relevant. But for now Lida and I needed to step back, gather our thoughts and take a breather before we make our next move.”
The daughter of a dressmaker, Baday graduated from Toronto’s Ryerson Polytechnical Institute and went on to become one of Canada’s most successful designers.
In 1990, she was awarded the Fil D’Argent in Paris by the Maison du Lin — a promotional arm of the Linen Commission in France.
Baday also became the first Canadian to join the U.S.-based McCall’s Pattern Company in 1992, when two of her designs were released in its November catalogue.
“Lida never set out to build an empire. She wanted to make clothes. That was in her blood,” said Zuliani.
Yet Baday’s dream of creating high-end clothing for career women made little sense to Canadian investors in the Eighties. “Back then none of these entrepreneurs believed that you could do high-end in Canada and succeed,” said Zuliani.
Over the years, Lida Baday has made its way into Holt Renfrew, The Bay, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom and established a strong following. One of Baday’s most noteworthy customers was Oprah Winfrey, who stumbled onto the line while shopping at Saks in Chicago.
Baday’s tailored jackets, currently priced between $500 to $800 Canadian, or $465 to $744 at current exchange, and dresses, at $500 to $1,000 Canadian, or $465 to $930, remain customer favorities.
The Fabric Room, the company’s large inventory of imported luxury fabrics, will continue to operate out of Lida Baday’s Toronto office and be sold to designers and the public.