Calypso St. Barth, a resort lifestyle brand that exited the business in 2017, is about to make a comeback as a direct-to-consumer brand.
Founded in 1992, Calypso St. Barth established itself as a year-round destination for luxury resortwear and accessories, but fell on hard times and in 2017 liquidated all of its $15 million in inventory across its 16 store locations before shuttering all remaining doors permanently. This was a month after a group of creditors forced the brand into Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Calypso’s intellectual property assets, such as its business name and web address, were not part of the bankruptcy sale and remained with its owner, Solera Capital, a private equity firm, which bought the brand from Calypso founder Christiane Celle in 2007. At that time the brand was operating about 30 stores and nearing $60 million in sales. The business eventually suffered from the shift to online retailing and marketing.
Now the brand is being overseen by president M. Oliver Regan and the creative team is the one behind sustainable surf and swimwear lifestyle brand Ansea, a sibling firm. In addition to serving as president of Calypso St. Barth, Regan also holds a leadership post at Beval Saddlery LLC, also owned by Solera.
Debbie Bancroft, who spent many years working closely with the brand as an adviser and loyal customer, is also working with the current team as a brand adviser.
“Calypso customers are as passionate about the brand as we are,” Regan said. “We speak to the sophisticated women that love unique timeless pieces. As a brand, we have looked back at our heritage and have expanded in a modern way. The line has been curated by our design team — it’s refreshing and demonstrates how unique this lifestyle brand is.”
The collection consists of ready-to-wear, evening and sustainably crafted swimwear. Fabrics run the gamut from cotton silk voile, linen and poplin to silk chiffon and charmeuse. Colors include turquoise, greens, pink, orange, sandy mocha and tan sands. The swimwear is made of deadstock fabric and regenerated Econyl nylon.
In addition to its direct-to-consumer business, Calypso will partner with strategic boutique retail destinations, beginning with a pop-up at Tenet in East Hampton starting this week and Tenet in Southampton next week. They also plan to sell into corners of nontraditional retailers.
Bancroft said it was always Solera’s intention to relaunch. “Obviously retail has had a major shift since then  since we were heavily brick-and-mortar, and now we’re mostly direct-to-consumer, with a couple of wholesale accounts. It was always our intention to come back,” she said. While she’s not ruling out brick-and-mortar stores, she said online is the way consumers are shopping these days.
Discussing how the new Calypso will differ from earlier incarnations, Bancroft said it was important they keep their heritage pieces. “We have such a loyal following out there. They hang on to their pieces. We’ll have a vintage element to our site eventually, too. I think it’s a little newer, a little hipper, a little younger,” she said.
The aim is to appeal to the brand’s loyal customers, as well as their daughters and granddaughters. Eventually, the plan is to have capsule collections with guest designers.
The first collection, which is being called “a love letter to the heritage of the brand,” focuses on hero pieces. There is a nod to ’60s and ’70s French ‘bohemian’ codes, as well as Indian handwork techniques such as thread work embroidery, block printing and appliqué that will be constants for the brand as it evolves.
The collections are being produced in female-founded and run factories in India. Knit pieces and swimwear are being manufactured in the garment center in New York at female-founded factories. Swimwear will account for 10 percent of the offering. The summer pieces will retail from $125 to $625. For winter months, Calypso will offer cashmeres, jeans and knits, as it did in its previous incarnation.
New collections will be introduced every two to three weeks, Bancroft said. Fulfillment is being outsourced from a Calypso warehouse. Regan declined to give a first-year sales projection.
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