Byline: Lisa Lockwood and Sharon Edelson
NEW YORK — Spring deliveries are on their way, but the sudden departure of Richard Tyler as designer of the Anne Klein Collection leaves retailers questioning both the company’s direction and its identity.
It will be a silent spring for the Anne Klein Collection: The company, normally a big spender — $2 million this fall for print alone — has no plans to advertise the signature line.
As reported, Tyler and Anne Klein announced their split Monday after a highly publicized 19-month relationship. They cited “differences” pertaining to the future design direction of the company, with Tyler pushing to reach a younger, hipper customer.
Patrick Robinson, former design coordinator for Giorgio Armani’s Le Collezioni women’s line at GFT, will reportedly be named to succeed Tyler, according to Anne Klein sources.
Robinson, who resigned this week from GFT, just returned to New York. Born in Memphis, the 28-year-old designer graduated from the Parsons School of Design here, having also attended the American College in Paris.
Neither Robinson nor Andrew Rosen, president of the Anne Klein Group, could be reached for comment Tuesday.
As for its ad plans, Anne Klein won’t be advertising the Collection this spring, but instead will focus its efforts on an Anne Klein II TV ad campaign, sources said. The new campaign was directed by Peter Arnell, chairman of the Arnell Group. There will also be a minimal print campaign for Anne Klein II.
Magazine publishers recently got the bad news from Klein officials that the company wouldn’t be buying its usual key positions this spring.
One retailer wasn’t happy with the news: “If they’re not helping us sell the stuff, I’m wondering what our position will be.”
The switch to Arnell will likely signal a retreat from the vampy, hard-edged photographs shot by Steven Meisel for the fall campaign.
The fall images, observers said, not only alienated Anne Klein’s loyal customer base, but didn’t do much to generate sales either. In some cases, store ads emphasized the collection’s classic elements and were sharply at odds with the jarring Klein campaign.
Even more perplexing is how retailers, many of whom quietly revealed they were extremely disappointed with the spring 1995 Anne Klein collection on the runway, will approach the line in the future.
“It’s kind of a shame that the two of them, Richard [Tyler] and management group couldn’t bear it out because we had incredible success with Anne Klein,” said Gene Pressman, co-president and co-chief executive officer of Barneys New York. “We didn’t have Anne Klein before, so we started on a new foot.
“As far as going forward, I don’t see any problem with it,” Pressman said. “Hopefully, it will be somewhat consistent with what we have seen. I hope it won’t be an about-face.”
While Barneys has only sold the collection for a season and a half — it carried fall and resort and is just getting deliveries of spring merchandise — Pressman said the store has equity in the line.
“I don’t want to confuse my consumer,” he said. “It’s important that whatever Anne Klein does, they take a long-term view. The process of undergoing a metamorphosis can’t be done overnight. Since they are making a big investment in a change, they should perpetuate that change.
“I can understand how in a difficult retail climate it’s easy to get cold feet,” Pressman said. “But you’ve got to take a long-term view. I think Anne Klein was a very widely distributed line,” he said.
“We like what Richard did. If the new person continues on a pattern of a somewhat of a modern nature we’ll continue. If they go back to exactly what it was, they’re making a mistake. To go all the way back is a mistake. They should remind themselves why they got Richard in the first place,” Pressman added.
Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president and fashion director at Bloomingdale’s, said he didn’t have any specific plans to promote the spring line yet. However, he added, “We have not planned all of our advertising and interior displays. It was a good collection, and we certainly want to sell it.
“I think some damage has been done, but nothing is irreparable in this business,” Ruttenstein added. “Give the customer what she wants and she’ll be back.”
Ruttenstein said he believes Tyler’s spring collection for Anne Klein will be more popular because it isn’t as hard edged as previous collections. “We hope the quality and price reductions will help bring the Anne Klein customers back.
“Even though we think Richard Tyler is a great talent, up to this point, the combination of Richard Tyler and Anne Klein has not worked particularly well for our Anne Klein customers,” said Ruttenstein.
According to Ruttenstein, “a little less of everything has been selling.” And, he noted, the Meisel campaign further confused traditional Anne Klein customers.
“The Anne Klein customer has not been able to buy clothes that she is comfortable wearing,” Ruttenstein continued. “The Richard Tyler clothes are beautiful and well made, but not in sync with what the Anne Klein customer has been looking for.”
Will Patrick Robinson’s expected appointment revive the line? “Patrick Robinson is a strong jacket designer, which Anne Klein is known for, and I’m sure that he can put the line back on course,” Ruttenstein said.
Cindy Paur, executive vice president of women’s better apparel at Nordstrom, Seattle, said her firm was cultivating a new Anne Klein customer, but she conceded the collection has not been performing at the same level as many of the chain’s established lines. That’s to be expected, however, she said.
“The loss of Richard Tyler is a loss that they’ll feel,” Paur said. “He is extremely talented. I don’t share the opinion that he wasn’t right for the line.
“The line took on a very new direction and was much more youthful in its design,” she continued. “Like any collection that takes a dramatic turn, it requires reestablishing a customer base.”
How Nordstrom’s proceeds with its Anne Klein business will depend on the next designer’s talent.
Rose Marie Bravo, president of Saks Fifth Avenue, said the store has some trunk shows planned for Anne Klein this spring, and the line was featured in the catalog.
When told that Anne Klein wouldn’t be advertising the Collection in any magazines, Bravo said that wouldn’t affect her plans. She assumed the store would go forward with any advertising planned.
“It’s unfortunate that this has happened because both Anne Klein and Richard Tyler are terrific, but life goes on. Anne Klein had a 30-year history and survived a lot of changes.” Bravo said Saks “did nicely” with the collection and doesn’t think the image of either party will be affected.
“We scaled back the number of stores when it was reoriented because we felt it wasn’t as broad-based anymore,” she said. The Fifth Avenue flagship installed a new Anne Klein shop and Bravo has no plans to alter it.
Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, said, “How we merchandise Anne Klein in the future will depend on what the collection looks like. If the product is right, it won’t be difficult to get the customer back. But they have to decide who their customer is going to be.
“I think they had a very good captive audience at one time,” Kaner continued. “I don’t think that woman is being serviced at the moment. No one else stepped into the breach to fill the gap. That customer is still looking to find the kind of clothes she at one time got from Anne Klein. She wants fashion but not cutting edge fashion. While it may not make headlines in a newspaper every day, it’s what most woman want.”
As for Anne Klein’s part, the company plans to support the spring Collection with a Look Book for key accounts and customers, said sources.
As reported, Andrew Rosen, as well as Takihyo Inc. officials, Frank Mori and Tomio Taki, were all out of the country when the news was released Monday. Mori told the Anne Klein division heads the news last Friday, and each of them reported the news to their respective staffs.
Robert Forrest, who came on board in May as creative design director of Anne Klein — after having freelanced with Richard Tyler and prior to that, with Louis Dell’Olio — will reportedly continue to work with the 11 licensees. Tyler collaborated with Forrest on upgrading many of the licensed products, and was involved in the naming of Manolo Blahnik and Liza Bruce as consultants to the footwear and swimwear, respectively. Anne Klein footwear is licensed to Schwartz and Benjamin and swimwear is licensed to Sirena.