Handbag brands that rely on Chinese production have gained some tariff breathing room.

Nearly a year after taking control of BCBGMaxAzria, Marquee Brands has moved quickly to revamp the brand lines and expand their product offerings.

Michael DeVirgilio, Marquee’s president, said the brand management firm hired Diane Bekhor as senior vice president for the BCBG Group. She has oversight for the core business, the retail and concession components, and for category expansions for BCBG Max Azria, BCBGeneration and BCBGirls.

Bekhor’s background is in luxury, starting her career at Louis Vuitton before moving on to Ralph Lauren, Bergdorf Goodman and Jimmy Choo.

The New York-based brand management firm purchased the intellectual property for the BCBGMaxAzria and BCBGeneration brands as part of BCBG’s exit from bankruptcy proceedings in July 2017. BCBG had filed for bankruptcy court protection in February 2017, and company founder Max Azria and creative director Lubov Azria are no longer involved with the fashion house.

According to DeVirgilio, “The BCBG brand has incredible, positive recall among young women. That blew us away. The market research we did showed positive and happy moments young women have had with the brand.”

Marquee moved quickly to develop a full lifestyle brand that will expand to include footwear, jewelry and cold weather accessories. “Handbags will be the driver going forward,” the president said of the first stage in category expansion for the core brand. The products will follow over the next several months. Marquee is also working on stage two of the extension strategy, one that is focused on discussions for intimates and swimwear for BCBGeneration, which targets a slightly younger consumer than its older BCBG sibling.

Cory Baker, chief operating officer for Marquee, said of the business and the bankruptcy: “The brand was never the problem, but operationally….”

Baker said he and DeVirgilio have added a handful of category partners, and have been working with the brand’s international partner in Mexico, where there are a total of 53 BCBGMaxAzria and BCBGeneration locations, to build the base there.


Inside a BCBG Max Azria store in Mexico City.  Courtesy Photo

Baker said at the time of Marquee’s acquisition, there were 40 freestanding stores and 275 partner shop-in-shops in the U.S., and now there are 42 freestanding stores and 310 shop-in-shops. The international business adds at least another 80 stores. The stores are a mix of BCBGMaxAzria and BCBGeneration nameplates. GBG, which acquired certain assets, operates the U.S. stores, and it also has the license for many of the product categories, such as the collection and footwear.

The business before the bankruptcy filing used the Max Azria name to designate the higher-end designer collection. Collection still will be part of the business, and many BCBGeneration stores feature a small area that houses selections from the BCBGMaxAzria product line, Baker explained. BCBGeneration is the line targeting the Millennial customer. Up next is the return of the even younger BCBGirls line.

According to Bekhor, “We are getting into handbags, with a big launch for the U.S. [market]. We’ve also extended into some natural areas that we thought would be a great fit [for the brand], inclusive of activewear and watches.”

The BCBG overseer said she is making sure there is a clear brand differentiation between the three lines through merchandising and price points. Footwear, which was a successful category for BCBGMaxAzria and BCBGeneration, appealed to consumers due to its Parisian styling and affordable pricing. But Bekhor is aiming to change that with different assortments and price points when the category relaunches in the fall so the merchandise better coordinates with apparel and accessories assortments for each line.

According to Bekhor, the handbags are in the stores, with those for the higher-end line made in Italy and the ones for the Millennial consumers being produced “around the world.”

Up next will be a small curated selection of beauty products launching in time for holiday for lips, eyes and nails for BCBGeneration.

If all that wasn’t enough for a mere six months of work, the company has been testing a soft launch of a capsule collection for BCBGirls.

Bekhor said the line was a natural extension of the BCBG umbrella: “It makes sense for the brand. Mom wants the dresses [for her girls] in a mini-me version. The younger line starts at infants and goes all the way to 13 or 14 years of age. We are talking to the BCBG customer from infancy to Generation to Max Azria.”


A look from BCBG Max Azria, for spirng.  Courtesy Photo


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