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Haider Ackermann followers looking to get their hands on his debut men’s collection for spring should act fast — the buzzed-about designer won’t continue the line beyond its first season.

This story first appeared in the December 2, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The decision is a disappointment to retailers — they were notified two weeks ago — that ordered the line and were investing in what they considered to be a business with potential. The collection was picked up in the U.S. by Barneys New York and the independent boutique Atelier New York, as well as a small group of stores internationally. Jay Bell, Barneys’ vice president and divisional merchandise manager for men’s designer collections and contemporary sportswear, said his discussions with Ackermann had led him to believe the men’s label would continue beyond a single season.

However, Ackermann’s business partner said the collection, which received critical plaudits after being unveiled in June during a coed runway show at Pitti W in Florence, was not meant as a full-fledged men’s launch.

“The decision to present a one-season collection was a creative decision,” said Anne Chapelle, chief executive officer and owner of BVBA 32, the Antwerp, Belgium-based company that operates and produces the Haider Ackermann and Ann Demeulemeester labels, in partnership with those designers. “Haider wanted to underline the image he made for his women’s line with the man at her side.

“The men’s collection will be added again at the time Haider wants to and it will not be linked to a season,” Chapelle said. “Creativity cannot be forced into a time frame. It is the emotion of the moment being translated to a collection, which is presented and sold to retailers who believe in creativity as such.”

Ackermann declined to comment.

The move comes as the Colombia-born Ackermann generates considerable heat among fashion insiders for his sultry-yet-sculptural designs that often incorporate leathers and complex draping. Karl Lagerfeld, for one, is a fan and made waves in a recent interview with Numéro magazine when he said he would like Ackermann to succeed him at Chanel when the time comes. “I have a contract for life so it all depends on who I would like to hand it to,” Lagerfeld said. “At the moment, I’d say Haider Ackermann.”

Ackermann and BVBA 32 may have abandoned men’s to focus resources on building the women’s business as it gains momentum.

“Haider may have taken on more than what’s manageable, as women’s is going to take up so much energy,” said Bell of Barneys.

Barneys will feature Ackermann on the cover of its spring men’s catalogue and will carry the men’s line in its New York and Beverly Hills flagships. The label will be merchandised adjacent to Dries Van Noten, Rick Owens and Ann Demeulemeester.

“We have a sizeable spring order,” Bell said. “We are getting behind it because Haider is a true talent.”

Karlo Steel, owner of Atelier New York, also believed the men’s line would be an active business.

“We must respect the designer’s decision to do what is best for his creativity and company,” he said. “Obviously, I would have loved to see the story continue but since this will not be the case, it will make this ‘one-off’ much more special.”

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