Mexx, the once-high-flying international brand that succumbed to competitive and economic pressures, is being relaunched by some of the same figures who ran the business in its heyday.
The team has ambitious plans for Mexx, including a new brand image, web site and smaller store prototype. There’s acknowledgement that the world and retail have changed, but some of Mexx’s older markets are being revisited in an attempt to recapture some of the brand’s former glory.
The three senior executives who agreed to a management buy-in to Mexx International BV to relaunch the brand include chief executive officer Leo Cantagalli, brand director Nur Basaran and chief financial officer and chief operating officer Jacques Mitterand.
The Drunen, Netherlands-based retailer launched a mini collection for spring 2018. The breadth of the assortment will bow in spring 2019 with apparel, shoes, accessories and handbags with Mexx priced just below Massimo Dutti, said Cantagalli.
“Our brand director of 15 years is back running the show,” he said. “We’re going back to the way we designed collections in the past, with a contemporary smart look. We’re design followers of the haute couture, translated in our handwriting. We’re always addressing a cosmopolitan consumer, 25-plus, who lives in the big city.
“We had to come to the right price positioning,” Cantagalli said. “We can do it with our sourcing. Mexx was always known for quality and value. We’re smart, not casual and not city. It’s somewhere in the middle.”
Five company-owned Mexx flagships are planned for Paris, Belgium, Amsterdam, Berlin and Munich. Created by Boffi Design with a contemporary minimalist look, the stores have been downsized for the digital age from the 8,611 to 12,916 square feet that was typical before to 2,152 to 3,229 square feet now.
As in the past, the majority of Mexx units will be franchised. Cantagalli is returning to former stomping grounds such as Moscow and St. Petersburg, where Mexx has a partner in place. Mexx will be relaunched in Canada, where 100 stores operated. “We were always successful in Egypt with past Mexx partners,” Cantagalli said. “We have 35 stores coming there.”
Mexx is opening its first franchised store in Holland and reentering Austria. Two areas that survived the turbulence are Greece, with 20 franchise units, and Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, with about 20 stores.
E-commerce is a key launch strategy. Mexx rekindled its relationship with Amazon. “We have very high awareness. We have loyal consumers who’ve bought our products for 25 years. We’ve been many years with Amazon. You create a consumer base in your e-commerce. We have our specific consumer,” the ceo said.
Cantagalli said the company is starting with $20 million in revenues, which pales in comparison to the $1.4 billion Mexx posted at its height. “Hopefully, we’ll get $40 million to $50 million by 2019. We hope the Internet will generate high volume,” he said.
The Dutch fashion brand has had a tumultuous history. Liz Claiborne acquired Mexx in 2001 and opened a 17,000-square-foot flagship on Fifth Avenue. Mexx had as many as 11 stores in the U.S. at one time, but the brand didn’t take hold and Claiborne in 2011 sold its stake to private equity firm Gores Group.
“I had a fantastic time with Paul Charron [former chairman and chief executive officer of Liz Claiborne],” Cantagalli said. “Unfortunately, Paul retired. When the brand falls into the wrong hands and they don’t understand it or its DNA or its historical markets.…I saw it was going very badly in the course of the last year.”
Mexx was struggling when Gores Group took control. Unable to overcome the effects of Europe’s long-running double-dip recession and the rapid decline in Eastern Europe, Gores said at the time that it had “no choice but to liquidate the business worldwide.”
Gores sold Mexx’s global IP to Turkish Eroğlu Holding Co. “Eroglu positioned Mexx next to Zara and H&M’s price level,” Cantagalli said. “Nobody in the world can compete with those prices.”
Ron Janssen and Ferry Helmer, owners of RNF, a Dutch holding company for footwear, accessories and apparel companies, in 2017 founded Mexx International B.V., acquiring solely the global IP of the Mexx brand from Eroğlu. “We started from a ground-zero status,” Cantagalli said.
“Unfortunately, if we don’t have a partner in the American market, I can’t do it from here,” Cantagalli said. “I need a stable partner who understands the business in the U.S. Liz Claiborne was running the show. When we made the marriage with Paul Charron, we said we’d help Liz brands enter Europe and he’d help Mexx in the U.S. We don’t have the partner yet.
“We’re putting Mexx right back where it belongs,” he said. “We’re putting it back on track. All the feedback we’re getting from the historical partners is they’re happy that Mexx is back. Hopefully, we’ll continue in a better way.”