The coronavirus bankruptcies are starting.
Bldwn, a men’s and women’s contemporary fashion brand based in Los Angeles, is prepping a step into bankruptcy, WWD has learned. The company is thought to be going straight into Chapter 7, a liquidation of assets, rather than the more typical Chapter 11, which allows a company to restructure its assets and make an attempt to reemerge as a business. But the brand has yet to formally file and the chapter it chooses could change, sources noted.
Bldwn’s entire staff has been let go, sources said. Layoffs started this week with employees in Kansas City, where the brand was founded in 2009, and ended Wednesday with all employees in California being let go. Bldwn employed a total of 33 people in corporate roles across the company and another roughly 45 people in its seven stores.
Company leadership could not be reached for comment. In an email, the company’s now former spokeswoman said, “Unfortunately, the investors decided it was time to shut it down.”
While Bldwn is said to be blaming financial fallout from the coronavirus and all of the state and federal mandates that have essentially halted the fashion and apparel business, as well as the economy at large, it’s very possible the brand was having issues before such an unprecedented event. The company’s president and creative director, Johnathan Crocker, left the brand at the end of October and the company never named a replacement.
Crocker’s last collection for Bldwn was spring 2020. He joined the brand two years before, after several years with AG denim. When he came to Bldwn, the brand underwent changes, like the spelling of the name from “Baldwin” (named for founders Matt and Emily Baldwin) and moving its headquarters to L.A. from Kansas City, where it started out as a denim brand. To that point, Crocker also led the brand to a move away from its strong focus on denim and into ready-to-wear and more apparel for women.
Until last year, it had also been undertaking an expansion of its relatively small brick-and-mortar retail business, with stores in New York, San Jose, Austin, Dallas, two stores in Kansas City, and one in L.A., its 1,100-square-foot flagship on the popular shopping strip of Melrose Avenue opened just last year.
But most of the business was wholesale, with the brand offered in Nordstrom and online at Amazon, Shopbop and Verishop, as well as smaller boutiques. A focus on wholesale was intentional and part of Crocker’s business plan when he joined the brand.
With more of an investment from TIFEC or The Illig Family Family Enterprise Company, a family-run private equity firm based in Kansas City, Kan., the company at the start of 2019 was looking to grow into a national brand, and eventually a global one. Now Bldwn is being led by business and bankruptcy adviser Winter Harbor.
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