HANES AND SMITH SPLIT: After less than a year together, Hanes Hosiery and Eric Smith have parted company.

Last January, Hanes, a division of Sara Lee Corp., and Smith, president and designer of World Love Productions, entered into a joint venture to produce legwear carrying the hosiery designer’s established EG Smith label. Last week, the two said the deal had ended.

Under the agreement, Hanes controlled the marketing, production and distribution of the collection and Smith was handled design.

The financial terms of the venture were not revealed. In the past, Smith had stated that his sock line did an annual volume of around $5 million. Known for his whimsical legwear and his signature boot sock, Smith has designed socks for nearly 11 years. In a telephone interview last week, Smith said the breakup “was a mutual decision that happened very quickly. “We decided it might be better to go in different directions. I’m exploring other opportunities for licenses and joint ventures,” he said, declining to detail the reasons for the split. “I hope I won’t miss too much of a beat.”

Smith is sending mailers to each of his 1,000 existing accounts to offer basic spring items, since Hanes does not intend to ship any of EG Smith’s spring orders, he said. Insuring that existing accounts receive adequate spring merchandise is his top priority now, Smith said. Smith said he would not purchase his spring line from Hanes, but was looking to contract the work through domestic manufacturers.

Hanes issued a statement last week saying, “Both parties agreed the brand was very viable and that they would cooperate to insure a smooth transition. All active customers will be notified by World Love Productions of future sources of the EG Smith brand as soon as possible.” Hanes declined any further comment.

“I want to make sure the business is handled properly and stores are kept in stock,” Smith said. “I want to make sure the stores and consumers don’t suffer in the process.”

Smith said he did not know how many units of socks had been sold this year.

All financial matters should be settled between the two parties by the beginning of January, he said.

“I’ve been through this before. One gets stronger and wiser each time,” Smith said, referring to past ventures with other manufacturers. Before the deal with Hanes, the Smith line was produced by Keepers International.

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