Byline: Eric Wilson
It was supposed to be America’s answer to LVMH: a big-bucks conglomerate of fashion, accessories and retail brands. But after getting off to a galloping start, Pegasus Apparel Group certainly had its wings clipped.
In the course of a year, Pegasus made a lot of news, acquiring six brands in rapid succession. Pamela Dennis, Daryl K, Angela Amiri, Miguel Adrover, Klein’s and Judith Leiber all became part of the fray.
But things changed drastically in 2001, as Pegasus’ hastily developed structure began to unravel just as quickly, leaving it with three active divisions, a new corporate identity — the Leiber Group — and new management.
First, there was a very public and very bitter divorce with Dennis. She claimed the bosses at Pegasus were pushing her in a downmarket direction, even installing security cameras in her office just to keep an eye on her. Pegasus said neigh, that Dennis was just too difficult to manage, so the company canned her and struck a deal with a bridge dress manufacturer to make and market Pamela Dennis Evening.
Troubles also began to bubble at Daryl K, when designer Daryl Kerrigan showed a collection in February that included bizarre references to the Unabomber. Stores balked, and Pegasus pulled her fall production, saying it was looking to license the line to an outside company.
Amiri broke up with Pegasus more amicably. Since she was a small fish with under $1 million in handbag sales, based in Los Angeles, Pegasus didn’t put up much of a fight to retain her company. The designer has since launched her first ready-to-wear collection on her own.
Meanwhile, Adrover was one of fashion’s rising stars, moving from obscurity and poverty to a big financial deal, almost overnight. Even though sales seemed to take off quickly with Pegasus’ backing, with reports of reaching $10 million, the company pulled the plug on the line after Sept. 11 and its related economic fallout. The brand is for sale, according to the Leiber Group.
That leaves Klein’s, a one-unit Manhattan boutique, and the company’s $30 million focus brand, Judith Leiber. Leiber has been undergoing a makeover for the past few years and has lately been drawing positive press for its youthful image. Leiber also recently signed a footwear license to step into a new category, beyond its signature beaded handbags.
As for Stephen L. Ruzow, the former Donna Karan chief who started the whole thing, he turned over most of his responsibilities to Susan Sokol, who began with the company as president of Pamela Dennis. Ruzow left the firm in November, becoming president of women’s wear for Kellwood Co.
Sokol, meanwhile, is president and chief executive of Leiber Group and maintains the company has a viable future, emphasizing in previous interviews a change in business strategy to focus on acquisitions of companies that have established infrastructures and that are branded. This, she said, should help avoid the costs of financing fledgling talents.