OLDHAM, ESCADA DROP BRIDGE LINE PLAN

Byline: Miles Socha

NEW YORK — Citing highly competitive conditions in the bridge market, Escada and designer Todd Oldham have pulled the plug on Todd Oldham for Apriori, a new bridge label slated for a spring 1998 introduction.
“Our mutual assessment was that the time was not right,” said Christopher H. Smith, vice chairman and chief operating officer of Escada USA, which markets Apriori in the U.S. for Schneberger GmbH, a subsidiary of Escada AG. “We made an internal assessment together with Todd Oldham, and we reached that conclusion.”
Smith said Escada was working “on all aspects of the development of the line,” but it was never finished. “Nobody ever saw a Todd Oldham for Apriori collection,” he said.
However, Smith said Escada is not shelving Apriori altogether. “It will continue as a separate line, and it’s having a record year in Europe,” he said, citing an increase there of 35 percent on a year-to-year basis. “Apriori as a brand will be offered in the U.S. based on its European design and manufacture, which was the way it was before we contemplated the Todd Oldham line.”
Apriori has been distributed in the U.S. for about five years. Smith declined to give a volume figure, but said, “It’s a small business by U.S. standards.”
Oldham was in Los Angeles Thursday filming with comedian Tracy Ullman for her upcoming HBO special and could not be reached for comment. However, in a statement, the designer said: “Developing any new line is a risky business. Escada and ourselves took a hard look at what was ahead and mutually decided the conditions were not right.
“Our continuing success with the Todd Oldham Collection, our proprietary stores and our rapidly expanding international business kept our plate full. Not doing the Apriori line is the right decision at this time and will release energy and resources for a long list of projects.”
Oldham has been a creative consultant for Escada AG for three years, working primarily with the design team for the Escada Margaretha Ley collection.
Going forward, however, he will have a more general, less intensive role.
Wolfgang Ley, chairman and chief executive officer of Escada AG, said that under a new three-year contract, Oldham will act as a “general consultant” to Escada USA, providing trends, ideas and insights into the American market. He will no longer fly regularly to Munich to work directly with the design team for Escada Margaretha Ley, he noted.
“He’s not specifically designing anything. He will have a more general role,” Ley said.
Tony Longoria, Oldham’s business partner, said the new “project-by-project” contract will free up Oldham for other, undisclosed projects. “He doesn’t have to travel to Germany as often,” he said.
As reported, Oldham had planned to close his better-priced sportswear line Times Seven in anticipation of a bigger bridge presence with Escada. But Longoria said Times Seven will now be produced in Japan by Itochu Fashion Systems Co. Ltd. and positioned as a contemporary label.
At present, Times Seven is distributed in Japan and sold at Oldham’s SoHo boutique. The firm is gearing up to distribute Times Seven in the U.S. and Europe sometime in 1998, Longoria said.