What spice would a year in fashion have without its cast of designers and makers? Here’s a wrapup of events from the manufacturing side of the business.
Alexander McQueen had good news and bad news in January for his London devotees. He said he would open a store there in November, but that he would show his women’s collection for spring 2000 in New York. “There just aren’t enough buyers in London,” he said.
In other McQueen news, he and Givenchy SA won “significant” but undisclosed damages in a settlement from Time Out magazine. McQueen sued the publication for libel because it had alleged that the designer copied the work of other designers for his Givenchy collections.
Helmut Lang took steps to become more of a commercial power as he outlined plans for a range of licensed products and new ventures, including a cashmere line for men and women, sport bags and freestanding stores.
Another round of musical executives in sportswear: Mary Wang quit as president of Emanuel/Emanuel Ungaro to become president of a new division at Tommy Hilfiger. The new collection, expected to premiere in 2000, is aimed at the better-priced career market. The news followed Hilfiger’s announcement to launch a junior line for sprint called Tommy by Tommy Hilfiger.
Peter Jacobi left as president and chief operating officer of the ailing Levi Strauss & Co., a sign of more trouble to come for the jeanswear giant.
Is Haggar returning to women’s wear? The company bought Jerell, a Dallas-based maker, and said it would relaunch a Haggar women’s brand sometime next year.
Say goodbye to Springs. The textile company officially exited the apparel business by selling its Springfield division, which makes woven fabrics, to a management group led by the division’s president, Edward N. Shogan. The apparel business is now known as Springfield LLC and based in New York; Springs Industries, Fort Mill, S.C., now focuses on home furnishings.
Burlington Industries said it was getting out of the knits business, closing seven plants and eliminating 2,900 jobs. The move slashed its apparel textile capacity by 25 percent, and the company attributed the action to cheap imports flooding in from Asia with no end in sight.
Rampage exited Chapter 11, and its executives said they hope to pay off their creditors with an ambitious licensing program.
February brought news of job cuts and high-profile departures.
As the millennium exits, so will Bill Blass from the fashion business. The designer, 76 at the time, told the world he was preparing for retirement after a half century on Seventh Avenue. He chose 2000 because it’s “a nice round number.”
“Fashion is like a party,” he said, “and there is definitely a time to leave it, and for me, it may be now.” He had suffered a minor stroke at a trunk show in December 1998, and he said it served as “a warning.”
“It does make you pause and consider how you want to spend the rest of your life. There are other things I’d like to do.”
Lots of restructuring and job cuts in February.
Things were looking pretty grim at Levi Strauss. The giant apparel maker said it would close 11 plants and slash 5,900 jobs, or 30 percent of its 19,900 North American workforce. Plans also called for moving “a significant portion” of its production offshore. The company was on a tough streak: 1998 sales dropped 13 percent as demand for the jeans Levi’s made famous dwindled.
Workers at Polo Ralph Lauren also felt the ax swing. As part of a global restructuring, 250 people got pink slips, nine stores were closed and other streamlining measures were implemented. The company was reorganized into a brand-based management model — all Polo brands, or all collection brands, for example, instead of separate men’s and women’s operating companies.
Gianfranco Ferre got a new partner in February: N.M. Rothschild & Sons Ltd., the London-based merchant bankers, which bought the 49 percent stake held by Franco Mattioli, Ferre’s longtime business partner, who is considered the brains behind the 20-year-old fashion business. Word was, though, that the bank was acting on behalf of another investor.
Richard Rubin, former ceo of Donnkenny, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud that overstated the company’s sales figures by millions of dollars.
In March, another big men’s brand jumped into the women’s arena. Hugo Boss said it was making “a Boss women’s collection for the whole world,” to debut at retail in spring 2001, and establishing a new Milan-based company to do it, Hugo Boss SpA.
Christian Lacroix finally signed a fragrance license with Inter Parfums, Paris. Not having a fragrance was a sore spot for Lacroix and its parent, LVMH, which, even though it has four perfume houses of its own, decided to partner with Inter Parfums for the start-up scent.
Meanwhile, the Italian company Ittierre was quietly building its own small empire, as it bought MAC Malo, a high-end cashmere company. Ittierre already was the maker of jeans, young and ready-to-wear lines for Gianfranco Ferre, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Romeo Gigli. Two weeks later, Ittierre would snap up its first designer brand — it bought Romeo Gigli for $33.3 million and secured the services of designer Gigli for 20 years.
He had called the job of rejuvenating Valentino “the challenge of my life” when he became managing director for the house in July 1998, but just eight months later, Roland Bohler quit. The company said there were differences between his vision and its own regarding its business strategy.
DuPont put the pressure on its polyester and nylon businesses and said it planned to cut capital and hike performance expectations in an effort to make them less cyclical.
Some big personnel news in the Armani camp kicked off the month of April. Andrew Grossman, who was dismissed as chief executive officer at Chaus in December, was named chief operating officer of Giorgio Armani Corp. U.S., the Italian firm’s highest ranking post here. And Robert Triefus, formerly the senior vice president of communications at Calvin Klein, became corporate vice president of worldwide communications, advertising and public relations for Armani, based in Milan.
What’s in a name? Not the designer behind it, at least in the case of Herve Leger. He departed from his namesake label, unable to agree with new management on how to run the business. The label was bought in fall 1998 by Max Azria, who also owns BCBG, based in Los Angeles. Leger said he was “brutally” dismissed, while Azria said Leger “brutally dictated to the French team I put together for him, to help and support him.”
Escada fans have long been able to do tea wearing their favorite label. Now they can do tee. The German apparel giant launched a line of golfwear carrying the insignia of the Ryder Cup team.
Lots of Calvin Klein news in April: He licensed the top women’s collection business to Selene SpA, part of the Mariella Burani Fashion Group in Reggio Emilia, Italy. The license commenced with the spring 2000 collection with Selene handling sales for Europe, the Middle East and Asia, but Calvin Klein here will still handle U.S. sales and distribution. Selene will also open freestanding Collection stores, mainly in Europe and Asia.
He also found a new face. Lisa Ratliffe, a 19-year-old brunette repped by Select Model Management in London, was dubbed the new Calvin Klein persona, succeeding Kate Moss.
CK Jeans, meanwhile, was on a retail roll and said it planned to open 80 freestanding stores in Europe and the Middle East over the next five years, as well as 50 in-store shops this year. The first freestanding CK Calvin Klein Jeans store opened this month in Kent, about a half hour outside of London, as did the first of the new-format in-store shops, which opened in Selfridges in London. The company planned to open fewer than a dozen stores on its own; once a beachhead was established in each country, the rest of the stores would be via franchise or license.
Mounir Moufarrige left as president of Chloe International in April. Ralph Toledano quit as president of Guy Laroche and in May would be named to succeed Moufarrige at Chloe. Toledano had been with Laroche since January 1996, but before that, he was with the Karl Lagerfeld company for a decade. He was succeeded at Laroche by Alex Stark, a luxury goods consultant.
DuPont, the granddaddy of Dacron, continued its efforts to pull away from the polyester business. It said it would spin off its polyester filament business into a 50-50 joint venture with Akra-Teijin, a Mexican polyester operation. It had already established such joint ventures for staple and polyester films, and said by the end of the year, it expected to reach agreements for the rest of its polyester fibers business.
In May, Chanel added a new chapter to its history. For the first time in its 89 years, the company signed a licensing deal. It is for eyewear, with Luxottica Group SPA. Luxottica has made Chanel’s sunglasses for a decade, but those were produced under contract and sold only in Chanel’s boutiques.
Also on the subject of eyes, Ittierre acquired two eyewear companies: Allison and Optiproject, making May the third consecutive month in which it has made a major purchase. It bought the MAC Malo cashmere company in March and the Romeo Gigli brand in April.
Meanwhile, Robin Marino joined Kade Spade as president and operating chief, while Edward M. Jones 3rd resigned as president and ceo of Segrets, which was acquired by Liz Claiborne in January.
Those wild and crazy guys at Generra Co. have teamed up to with NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” to produce a licensed line of sportswear commemorating the show’s 25th anniversary. It will carry the label SNL25. Now, isn’t that special?
GFT and Ferragamo said they would end a licensing agreement for the Emanuel/Emanuel Ungaro bridge line. Ferragamo, parent of the house of Ungaro, said it wasn’t abandoning the line and that it would explore other partners for the collection.
Gabriella Forte dropped a bomb in June: She resigned her post as president and chief operating officer of Calvin Klein Inc., but she would remain a strategic advisor to Klein and partner Barry Schwartz. Forte had been with the company for five years and was credited with helping Calvin Klein develop a global business and expand its retail network.
Procter & Gamble teamed up with Clarins in the U.S. to form an American fragrance house that is expected to generate sales of more than $100 million in two years. The new alliance, the Clarins Fragrance Group, took control of sales distribution and promotion of two P&G brands, Hugo Boss and Giorgio Beverly Hills, along with the Clarins brands Azzaro and Chrome.
Holding di Participazioni Industriali, which bought the house of Valentino in 1998, said it would pump $50 million to $80 million into the Rome-based fashion company over the next three years to start Valentino on a growth track again. Valentino started taking tighter control over its image and licensing and said it would officially launch a younger, hipper accessories line next year.
A federal district court judge threw out a lawsuit filed by Mademoiselle Knitwear against Liz Claiborne that alleged a “massive fraud scheme” in Claiborne’s payments of liquidated damages to UNITE, the apparel workers union. The suit was originally filed in May 1998.
Stonecutter Mills, one of the largest suppliers of gray synthetic fabrics in the U.S., shut down its textile operations, idling 800 workers.
Michael Pellegrino, was tapped as president of Anna Sui Corp. in June. Pellegrino, a veteran apparel executive of Carolina Herrera and Halston and most recently an industry consultant, succeeded Rod Kosann, who left to form a retail and brand development firm.
Designer eveningwear firm Holly Harp went out of business after 31 years, a victim of disappointing fall sales and the shrinking American market, according to Jim Harp, its sales director and former husband of the late designer.
In July, Patrick Robinson said he was closing his two-year-old sportswear firm. He said it was because of difficult conditions for young designers and trouble finding the right financial partner.
In August, DuPont-Akra Polyester found a new president in Hector R. Camberos, who succeeded John M. Carpenter, while Givenchy Couture named a woman president in Marianne Tesler, a former president of Nike France, who succeeded George Spitzer.
William Farley resigned as chairman and ceo of apparel powerhouse Fruit of the Loom, a surprise to many in the industry, fueling speculation that the company could be a target of a merger or acquisition. He remained on board , however, in the newly formed office of the chairman.
A legendary name is returning to women’s wear. Kellwood Co. in August announced plans to introduce women’s sportswear under the Perry Ellis and Perry Ellis Portfolio labels for fall 2000. The Ellis brands have been mainly in men’s and boys’ wear, fragrances and licensing, with women’s products accounting for about 5 to 10 percent of an estimated total of $900 million at retail for the brand.
Ralph Lauren in September said it would discontinue its bridge line after holiday. Retailers who carried the collection, known first as Ralph, then as RL, would be offered selections from Polo’s other lines, like Ralph Lauren Polo Sport and the “black label” line, once called Ralph Lauren Collection Classics, which appeals to the “gold range” price tier between bridge and designer.
Giorgio Armani believes in accessories. He set up a special division with offices in Milan and Florence that will design luxury leather accessories under the Giorgio Armani and Emporio Armani labels. He tapped Dawn Mello, former chief merchant at Bergdorf Goodman, to consult. Armani also said he would open a major retail complex in Milan housing Emporio Armani, Armani jeans, Armani Casa and two restaurants.
Levi’s took a big step on the road to recovery when it named Philip Marineau its new president and ceo. Marineau is the former chairman of Pepsi-Cola North America, and succeeds Peter Jacobi.
A German business giant, Klaus Steilmann, also said he was stepping down as head of the Steilmann Group, which he founded more than 40 years ago. He will still chair the company’s supervisory board, but day-to-day operations will now be in the hands of Joachim Vogt, the former chairman of Hugo Boss AG.
Ines de la Fressange said she was fired by her backers from the fashion house she started eight years ago while she was on maternity leave. (She had a daughter, her second child, on Aug. 6.) The reason she was given was a “violation of employment contract” because she designed a pill box for a French pharmaceutical company that “damaged the company’s brand image.” Legal action was expected to follow.
Jay Margolis decided to pack it in at Esprit de Corp., where he has spearheaded a turnaround since January 1996. Margolis, president and ceo, said he’d stay until his contract expires on Jan. 8, 2000, to ease the management transition.
Anyone looking for an October surprise was not disappointed. This year’s headline: Calvin Klein and his partner, Barry Schwartz, hired investment bank Lazard Freres to look into selling or merging or otherwise joining forces with another company. The only thing they said they wouldn’t do is go for an initial public offering. Financial experts estimated the firm could fetch a cool $1 billion. Products bearing the designer’s name (or initials) generated an estimated $2.5 billion wholesale last year, or $5 billion retail, and licensing income was well over $120 million.
Bill Blass took an unusual route for cashing out of his business. The designer planned to float an investment grade bond to finance the sale of his design and licensing company via a bond issue to Haresh T. Tharani, chairman of his largest licensee, the Resource Club Ltd., and Michael Groveman, Blass’s chief financial officer. While Blass will no longer be involved in the day-to-day operations, he said he was committed to the company for life and would help guide it through expansion and licensing and keep active in its creative direction. In November, Blass walked out of the house he founded in 1968 with a check for $50 million.
Estee Lauder bestowed the title of ceo on its president, Fred H. Langhammer, effective Jan. 1. The move is intended to free up Leonard A. Lauder, who remains chairman of the $4 billion cosmetics giant, to spend more time identifying companies to buy and nurturing new businesses. Speaking of which…Estee Lauder bought Jo Malone, a small but sizzling British fragrance and skin care brand.
Lewis Koppelman, a former executive with Polo Ralph Lauren, was named president and ceo of Louis Feraud U.S.
Celine U.S. named Patrizio di Marco acting president. Di Marco remains as senior vice president of marketing and communications at Louis Vuitton, Americas. Celine is also a part of the LVMH stable, and its American back-office operations have been combined with those of Vuitton in New York.
The American Apparel Manufacturers Association announced a new factory certification program to fight sweatshops around the world. The program will certify actual factories, not monitor manufacturing companies, as is the case with the Fair Labor Association’s monitoring program.
Miriam Ruzow, who launched the U.S. business for her family-owned Gottex label and turned it into a core designer brand, said she would leave as president at the end of the year. She had founded the American arm of the Israeli-based business 33 years ago. Her husband, Stephen L. Ruzow stepped down as president of the Calvin Klein underwear and accessories division at The Warnaco Group after almost a year and was succeeded by James Mogan for underwear. No one was named to the accessories post.
Legendary designer Kenzo bid farewell to the runways, as he retired after 30 years in fashion.
November was a big month for Andrea Jung, who was named ceo of Avon, part of an orderly succession plan. Jung, 41, who has been president, joined Avon in 1994 and succeeds Charles R. Perrin, who is retiring.
Cynthia Rowley jumped into another venture: cosmetics. The designer’s first beauty line includes 164 items and is made via license with the Japanese firm Kanebo. It is sold in 200 doors in Japan.
A Polo Ralph Lauren executive who was a key to the company’s growth and its IPO, Michael Newman left the company as vice chairman and chief operating officer. Lance Isham, who was named Polo’s corporate president in November 1998, added the title of chief operating officer.
Less than a month after showing his first collection for Herve Leger, Eric Sartori left the house over a disagreement with management on its direction. And after showing just one couture collection, Jerome Dryfuss exited as couture designer — for the same reason. Leger himself was dismissed in April — same reason. Max Azria, who owns 99 percent of the French company in addition to owning BCBG, assumed design responsibilities for both Leger collections.
Kate Spade and The Estee Lauder Cos. joined forces in a licensing deal for a line of Spade cosmetics. Lauder’s Prescriptives unit obtained the rights to make and distribute Spade fragrance and beauty products.
Donna Karan bit another bullet and slashed 175 jobs, its second significant round of layoffs in two years. It also merged its women’s collection and DKNY divisions and consolidated its public relations and marketing departments. The moves are expected to save about $6 million a year.
Jeffrey Nugent took the president and ceo spots at the troubled Revlon, succeeding George Fellows, who resigned.
In December, J.C. Penney scored a major brand and Warnaco scored a major distribution coup as the two teamed up to sell Calvin Klein Underwear at Penney’s stores. It won’t be sold in all of Penney’s units, just the ones with a department store ambience, according to Linda J. Wachner, Warnaco’s chief. The move was expected to ruffle some feathers at traditional department stores, but Wachner emphasized that the underwear won’t be discounted, adhering to normal sale periods, and that Calvin Klein Jeans — another Warnaco license — wasn’t part of the deal.