Welcome back, Mr. Halston.
This story first appeared in the March 4, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
After stabilizing and expanding its women’s business and appointing a headline-grabbing president and chief creative officer in Sarah Jessica Parker, Halston is finally turning its attention to men.
This fall, the investor group that purchased Halston in 2007 will launch two men’s lines as part of its continuing bid to revitalize the iconic brand. The effort will be led by a luxury-level main collection of suits and sportswear designed with accessible fashion in mind. The company will also offer a secondary line, called Heritage, which will be more fashion- and sportswear-driven and be at lower prices.
“The timing to launch men’s is perfect as we see consumer confidence returning,” said Halston chief executive officer Bonnie Takhar. “We wanted to restore the prestige of the brand.”
The men’s business will mirror the women’s — which also offers both Collection and Heritage lines — but will be different in significant ways.
Unlike the women’s, which is produced in-house, the men’s business will be managed and distributed globally by Neema Clothing, which holds the master license for Halston men’s. That company, best known as a tailored clothing manufacturer, is owned and run by Jim Ammeen, who sold the Halston brand in 2007 to its current owners, which include Hilco Consumer Capital and The Weinstein Co. Ammeen continues to own a stake in Halston and sits on its board.
Additionally, the men’s collections won’t be helmed by an in-house designer. That job is going to Studio Mauro Ravizza Kreiger, an Asti, Italy-based design shop that will oversee design for both men’s lines. The studio has worked for Allegri and Loro Piana previously.
In an exclusive discussion with WWD on the scope and strategy of the men’s business, Ammeen said after a two-year delay, Halston men’s is ready to hit the market.
“The brand is in a good place under the current management. Retailers are recognizing it as a luxury player, and the launch of the women’s Heritage line has been a resounding success, not to mention the addition of Sarah Jessica Parker has been brilliant,” he said. “We always planned to have the women’s lines up and running before we launched the men’s. Now it’s time to plan for the future of men’s.”
Heading up the men’s business is Tom Wallis, a 30-year industry veteran, who will serve as president of Halston men’s wear. “Men’s fashion is either traditional or very young,” he said of the main collection’s positioning. “We bridge that gap with what we call ‘grown-up’ fashion.”
Where the women’s business has been fashion-oriented, Wallis said the men’s main collection will cater more to the luxury consumer. No runway presentations are planned for either men’s line at this time.
Either way, the news marks both the next step in Halston’s long-awaited rehabilitation and a powerful entry into the men’s market. The brand has been out of men’s wear since the early Nineties when it was primarily a licensed tailored clothing business.
Wallis and Ammeen said the main collection was partially inspired by the late designer’s jet-set Seventies aesthetic: a muted palette, minimalist silhouettes and hallmarks of Seventies tailoring such as wide lapels and lower button stances. But don’t expect to see literal interpretations of Halston classics — the basis for the women’s Heritage range — in the men’s lines.
“There will be no bell-bottoms,” said Wallis, who served as senior vice president of men’s at now-defunct manufacturer Gruppo Finanziario Tessile, or GFT, before heading up his own marketing and importing firm ModaAmerica. “We took the DNA of Halston to create a collection that has roots in New York fashion, but is relevant for a global luxury consumer.”
The main line will offer suits at $2,000, shirts around $400 and neckwear starting at $150 retail. It will be produced by Italian manufacturer Gruppo Forall, makers of Pal Zileri, and distributed globally by Neema Clothing.
Neema Clothing will produce and distribute the men’s Heritage collection, which is geared toward a younger, more fashion-forward audience. Heritage outerwear will retail near $1,000; suits will top out at $1,100 and sweaters will range between $195 and $450.
Wallis is working full-time on placing both lines in the right stores globally, pursuing many of the accounts that carry the women’s lines, including Neiman Marcus, Harrods, Selfridges, Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf Goodman.
Halston men’s will be sold out of the brand’s Manhattan showroom.
Ammeen declined to give sales targets for the men’s business. “Right now we are more concerned about getting in the right stores and partnering with the right people,” he said. “We want this to be special and extremely limited.”
While Studio Mauro Ravizza Kreiger is overseeing design for both lines, Ammeen didn’t rule out adding a men’s creative director down the road. Marios Schwab, the current designer for the women’s lines, was named as a candidate.
Parker, who was not available for comment, will not have day-to-day involvement in the men’s business but, given her role at the company, will oversee the lines’ general directions. “It’s early in her involvement and we haven’t discussed men’s with her yet,” Ammeen explained. “But she understands fashion and is a good businessperson and will be involved.”