NEW YORK — Joan Vass is knitting herself a new direction.

The New York sales and marketing firm Global Sourcing and Design Inc. has purchased the Joan Vass brand. It plans to launch the Joan Vass Signature and Joan Vass Studio collections for spring 2007, and accessories, such as handbags and footwear, and wovens in the future. Vass, who started her label in the late Seventies and is best known for knits, will continue to make knitwear under the higher-priced Joan Vass N.Y. label.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Vass, 80, had a long-term licensing agreement with Heritage LLC, which manufactured domestically in South Carolina, but was struggling to remain competitive in a market that is increasingly dominated by offshore manufacturers. The designer sold her line to a few specialty stores, and the Neiman Marcus catalogue and NM online.

“About a year and a half ago, when I found out that the licensing company was troubled, we started talks to buy the company,” said Joe Hiess, president and chief executive officer of Global Sourcing and Design. “We felt she had such a large following that the brand could easily be rejuvenated.”

Global Sourcing manufactures goods in Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and China. While some looks might be tested for fall 2006, the official relaunch of Joan Vass will take place for spring 2007, when the parent plans to unveil Joan Vass Signature, a higher-end line, from $45 to $150 wholesale, and Joan Vass Studio, a more casual secondary line priced between $25 and $45. Both collections target upscale specialty and department stores.

“Because we are a larger company, we were able to add a variety of knitting and woven goods to the collection,” Hiess said. “Our mission is to make Joan Vass into a lifestyle brand, and we will have Joan Vass spa, golf wear, loungewear and accessories. We intend to take it into Canada next year, and the year after, expand the distribution to China.”

At its height, Joan Vass was sold to Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and about 400 specialty stores. While Hiess didn’t disclose the value of the acquisition, he said, “At her peak, Joan Vass was doing $25 million, and we should be there within three years.”

This story first appeared in the March 1, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Richard Mauro has been tapped as vice president of design, marketing and sales for Joan Vass at Global Sourcing. He had been vice president of sales and marketing for Lulu Guinness.

“We will first concentrate on the knitwear business, and once that has been reestablished and also enhanced, the strategy is to branch into some selective woven pieces, and possibly accessories like shoes and bags,” Mauro said.

Vass couldn’t contain her enthusiasm at this new turn in her career. “I like working. I am still hand-knitting gloves and hand-knitting socks,” she said. “Joe Hiess has been extremely cooperative and understands what I do.”

Vass, a former assistant curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, added, “I’d like to do men’s again. I was always pleased with the men I dressed. I like making people happy, and even though I may be mean and opinionated, it makes me smile if the clothes make people happy.”

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