LUBELL DUO LEAVE HIPPIE IN DISPUTE
Byline: Katherine Bowers
LOS ANGELES — Restless husband-and-wife design team Jeffrey and Kymberly Lubell are on the move again.
A year after joining Azteca Production International to launch contemporary denim label Hippie Jeans, the Lubells have parted company with their backer and are reportedly in talks with a number of industry players, including LEI and Rampage, to launch another status denim line.
Jeffrey Lubell confirmed he had spoken with both companies, among others, but said no deal is done yet.
Azteca, a $350 million private label denim manufacturer, owns the Hippie trademark and will continue to produce the line, according to chief executive officer Paul Guez.
Hippie Jeans booked $4 million in its first nine months.
Jeffrey Lubell claimed Azteca was using designs developed for the Hippie label to further the fortunes of its other private label clients, including J. Crew and American Eagle Outfitters.
“Paul is a private brand merchandiser. Our design lab became a seeing-eye dog for the other labels,” Lubell said. “For instance, Bongo [an Azteca line] is on fire. A year ago, it was at $40 million and unprofitable. In the last two months, they’ve booked $14 million based on my intellectual property.”
Lubell also alleged that Guez covertly registered the Hippie trademark and failed to honor a verbal agreement on compensation terms.
“When we joined up with him [Guez], we were in a desperate situation,” Lubell said, referring to an acrimonious split with his former backer, Jolna Design Group. The two parties are embroiled in lawsuits over the trademarks for the Bella Dahl line, which the Lubells also founded.
Lubell said he has no inclination to take this latest matter to court. “I don’t have any hard feelings toward Paul,” he said. “I blame myself again, for not getting a signed deal in writing.”
Guez denied there was an agreement on the Hippie trademark. As to whether he cribbed Hippie designs for other clients, he said: “All the lines you mentioned, obviously those people did much better than [the Lubells].” He declined to elaborate.
Guez likened the Lubells’ defection to that of Maurice Sassoon, his partner, in the Seventies.
“It’s history repeating itself,” he said. “Maurice left Sassoon jeans, but we went on to develop a huge business. We’ve been in this business a long time and know it well.”