Vince founders Rea Laccone and Christopher LaPolice have left the company for a second time.
This story first appeared in the February 14, 2017 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
They founded Vince in 2002, sold it to Kellwood in 2006, the business went public in November 2013, and they retired earlier that year until getting recruited back in 2015.
On Monday, Vince said that Laccone and LaPolice “mutually agreed to end their consulting arrangements based on the progress achieved in resetting the brand.”
The news of their departure seemed surprising considering they were just 15 months into the life of their two-year agreement. But Vince chief executive officer Brendan Hoffman said: “It was always very open-ended. They could have been here for a day, a year, for two years. There was no magic to the two-year number. They came in to get the brand on track and to get the quality, aesthetics and the product back to where it was.”
Hoffman added, “We believe that we have largely accomplished our objective of resetting the brand aesthetic and merchandise offering with their guidance. While our financial results do not yet reflect the progress we have made to the merchandise assortment, we believe the return to the design aesthetic and commitment to quality that made Vince a leading luxury brand in the premium department store channel is an important step in driving future growth.”
For the nine months ended Oct. 29, Vince had a net loss of $511,000 versus a $3.3 million gain in the year before. Net sales came to $204.3 million, compared to $ 220.7 million the year before.
Vince built a reputation for easy, effortless, aspirational products like soft cashmere knits, cotton T-shirts and leather jackets, and was riding high for a while, having established large shops inside upscale department and specialty stores such as Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s. The brand is sold in about 2,400 retail doors in 40 countries, at 40 Vince stores and 14 outlets and on vince.com.
Like other brands, Vince has suffered from declining mall traffic compounded by some of its own problems. “The product had moved away from what was [the essence] of Vince,” Hoffman explained. “It was slightly unrecognizable from what made Vince so special. It got very basic-driven. Our penetration of replenishment had risen to an unhealthy level. The quality of the fabrics were different. We were using a different level of factories and the precision to fit had changed.”
Nevertheless, Hoffman said he believes Laccone and LaPolice have steered the collection back in the right direction, and he noted a reduction in “excessive” promoting and greater focus on omnichannel initiatives and driving supply chain efficiencies. The company recently began selling third-party home goods, apothecary, books and other items at the Vince stores on Madison Avenue in New York and at The Grove in Los Angeles, as well as on vince.com.
Hoffman suggested there’s no need to directly replace Laccone and LaPolice. “There are no gaping holes right now, though we continue to see how we can strengthen the team in anticipation of growing the business.”
This week, Vince shows fall 2017 products, created by Laccone and LaPolice, for August, September and October 2017 deliveries. The duo also created some holiday 2017 merchandise. Their first collection during their second stint at Vince was delivered to stores in early August 2016. LaPolice mostly worked in Vince’s corporate headquarters in New York City while Laccone worked in the Los Angeles design studio. They met while working at Laundry by Shelli Segal.
Asked how spring business is faring, Hoffman replied, “We are always cautiously optimistic. The weather these last few days hasn’t helped [with major snow and ice storms on the East Coast]. But we feel good about the spring collection being delivered now.”
Hoffman also said Vince is “getting through the last stages of our IT transformation. It’s caused us some pain but we are excited it too will support our growth.” Starting last year, Vince had to extricate itself from Kellwood’s systems and switch to a new warehouse and POS and reporting systems.
“The Vince management team has the full support of the board,” Marc Leder, chairman of the Vince board, said in a statement. “They have taken several important steps toward resetting the brand and building a foundation for long-term growth and we appreciate Rea and Christopher’s contributions in helping the company re-establish the Vince brand’s DNA.”