NEW YORK — Tony Melillo, the creative director who revived the Eighties brand Generra, has left the company.
“It’s been a great three years and I’ve dedicated my life to this relaunch,” Melillo said. “[Generra] has gone from being nothing to becoming a major contender in the contemporary market for both men’s and women’s. It can stand on its own legs at this point.”
Melillo split with Generra and Public Clothing Co., which acquired the brand in 2002, on good terms, he insisted, noting that he and Dan Shamdasani, chief executive officer of Public Clothing, had been discussing his departure for nearly three months.
“It’s not like I’m leaving Generra to go someplace else,” Melillo said. “Right now just seems like the best time to break.” The resort and holiday collections will be the last designed by Melillo.
Sources close to the firm question whether Public Clothing’s business model was contradictory to Melillo’s. Melillo planned to have the brand be a true contemporary collection that would retail in selected specialty boutiques. Public Clothing is involved with businesses that operate on a more mass level.
In 2000, Public Clothing launched French Cuff, an updated misses’ collection. The line is distributed in about 550 department stores, such as those owned by Federated and Dillard’s, and pulls in annual sales of more than $50 million. Public Clothing also has a private label business in various categories.
“[Generra] is a lifestyle brand and it will continue on,” Shamdasani said. “The distribution is going to be the same,” he said, noting that specialty stores like Barneys New York, Bloomingdale’s, Intermix, Fred Segal and Ron Herman will continue to carry the label.
Melillo’s replacement has not yet been named, but Shamdasani said he expects to name a creative director within the next few weeks. He declined to provide sales figures for the brand.
Generra, which originally was based in Seattle, was a hot commodity in the junior realm in the Eighties, with $400 million in sales for its high-energy sportswear. But by the time Public Clothing acquired the brand in 2002 from Generra Holding Co., a licensing operation founded after Generra’s bankruptcy in 1994, the label had been largely dormant for a decade. Only a couple of licenses remained in footwear and accessories, and those were canceled.
Melillo had his start as a stylist for Esquire magazine. In the late Nineties, he designed a collection called Nova USA that dressed up casual street styles with luxury fabrics and a better fit than traditional activewear had at the time.
“I loved doing Nova,” Melillo said. “It was me and it was under my control.”
When his partnership with Nova broke up in 2000, he opened a signature line, but was unable to make it a financial success. He freelanced for Abercrombie & Fitch for two seasons and styled for The New York Times Magazine, spending two years in Los Angeles and then eight months in Miami before he got the call from Public Clothing.
“It’s not easy taking something from nothing, but it happened. I feel proud that I did that for [Generra]. I can walk out before it becomes something that’s not me,” Melillo said.
Though he’s not sure what his next step will be, Melillo said he finds the men’s luxury market “curious” at this time. “There’s a sensibility in the men’s luxury market. It’s not so broad. It’s just cool, well-made, beautiful clothing.”
Perhaps a move to Los Angeles is in Melillo’s future. He visits Los Angeles at least once a month to film style segments for KTTV Fox 11 news and said he has “a great Hollywood connection.”
“I want to work. I want to do something again. Would I look into L.A.? Yes,” he said.