BETTY WEAR, PERIPHERY BOTH CLOSE THEIR DOORS
Byline: Karyn Monget
NEW YORK — Continuing the consolidation within the innerwear industry, the new year has started out with two vendor casualties — Betty Wear Inc., a young designer daywear and foundations firm founded in 1991, and Periphery Inc., a 25-year-old maker of loungewear.
Betty Wear illustrates the squabbles young designers can get into with financial backers. Periphery, on the other hand, is a key example of how the thinner turnout of major buying groups during market weeks and the shrinking numbers of prime retailers are affecting firms. With the closing of I. Magnin, for example, Periphery executives claimed the company lost more than $400,000 in annual business — a hefty piece of change for a company that had projected doing $7 million this year.
Jennifer Buckley and Scott French, the design team who started Betty Wear, had been backed by David Rothberg for 3 1/2 years. But Rothberg, a men’s sweater contractor, pulled the plug in December, and the firm officially closed on Jan 1.
Buckley and French had been known for their signature style of patchwork looks and mixing of ready-to-wear fabrics. The Betty Wear line had been sold to smaller specialty boutiques and major stores.
French said annual wholesale volume had been $1 million.
“Rothberg no longer wanted to be in the intimate apparel business,” said French. “He locked us out of our studio and offices in December.”
“I went beyond my initial agreement,” said Rothberg. “I advanced money against profits and future monies that never came in.” Rothberg said he filed a lien on the Betty Wear name for over $200,000.
“I’ll eventually own the name,” said Rothberg. But he said he did not know what he would do with the Betty Wear name in the future.
In response, French said, “I disagree with those figures. We are unaware of how Rothberg came up with those figures.”
French said he and Buckley are currently looking for employment as a design team, but they aren’t seeking another backer.
Periphery — after a brief attempt at downsizing late in 1994 to make up for declining sales — was closed by the start of 1995. However, several members of the Lewis family, which started and ran the firm, quickly found another situation, heading a newly formed loungewear and casualwear division at Banner Industries, a budget-to-moderate sportswear maker.
Banner, at 469 Seventh Ave., has hired Judy Lewis, who was Periphery president, as the division’s merchandise manager; her son, Bob Lewis, is president, and his wife, Susan Lewis, is production coordinator.
Periphery’s former designer, Leigh Karmitz, also has joined Banner’s new division, which has not yet been named.
“We’ll be doing a lot of private label merchandise for mail-order houses, and I feel very optimistic,” said Judy Lewis.
Larry Kaplan, vice president of Banner, said Banner did not acquire the Periphery name or assets, but noted, “We do a lot of private label for catalogs. They had a good customer base, a nice product line, and they are well liked in the market place.”
Nancy Lewis, formerly sales manager at Periphery, did not join Banner, and is looking for employment elsewhere, said her mother, Judy Lewis. Michael Lewis, another son of Judy Lewis, joined I. Appel this month as general sales manager for the Appel robe and David Brown divisions. He had been vice president of sales and marketing at Periphery. Lewis reports to Norman Katz, chairman of I. Appel.
Meanwhile, the David Brown division of Appel is another example of the tightening up in the industry. This month, Appel closed the headquarters showroom for Brown in Los Angeles, eliminating a staff of six people there, and absorbing the functions into Appel’s New York showroom.
“It has to do with general consolidation. We felt it was important for future growth,” said Katz, noting that the firm’s Lucine Pelinni dress division, which also was located at Appel’s West Coast offices, was closed this month. “We wanted to concentrate on intimate apparel,” said Katz.
Paul Cancelli will continue to design the David Brown lines for Appel from his own design studio in Los Angeles.