PAMELA DENNIS, UNGER IN TALKS ABOUT NEW EVENINGWEAR LINE
Byline: Eric Wilson
NEW YORK — Pegasus Apparel Group’s Pamela Dennis division is said to be working on a licensing deal with bridge dress powerhouse Kay Unger to produce a secondary eveningwear collection for the designer, and possibly take over the manufacturing side of Dennis’s signature line, according to sources close to the companies.
Executives at Kay Unger and Pegasus would not comment on the nature of the talks on Wednesday, but sources said some sort of deal is in the works for Unger to take over the production of Dennis’s glamorous, celebrity-driven evening collection, as well as to launch a bridge-priced social occasion line under her name as a more commercially oriented venture. It would be Dennis’s first license.
While the deal is seen as an opportunity to turn the cachet of Dennis’s name and celebrity ranking — built by dressing some of Hollywood’s biggest names at red-carpet events — into a sizeable retail business, there are also reports that Kay Unger may buy at least part of the Pamela Dennis business. Pegasus took a majority stake in Dennis’s company last March.
A licensing deal could provide a major boost for both companies, but it also indicates that Pegasus may be beginning to loosen the tight control it originally aimed to hold over production of each of its brands, which also include Miguel Adrover and Daryl K.
Kay Unger has grown into one of the strongest bridge dress businesses cited at retail, with an estimated wholesale volume of $35 million and a good reputation for its production, quality and fit.
Unger built her name as a designer and founder of Saint Gillian, which later became The Gillian Group, where she worked for 15 years before that business closed in 1995. Unger then moved to the Phoebe Co., another Seventh Avenue dress house, which produces Kay Unger and Phoebe lines.
Sources said Pegasus is not looking to take an ownership in Unger’s business.
Kay Unger is a strong bridge resource for stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, which carry her evening separates and dresses. Blouses and lace pants in her line typically run from $250 to $395, while dresses range from around $325 to $500.
While talks between the two vendors are in development, the secondary Pamela Dennis collection is said to be envisioned as being priced somewhat higher than Unger’s signature line. It would be priced from $900 to $1,100, about twice the price of Unger’s line. That’s still more attainable to a broader spectrum of consumers who are familiar with Dennis’s signature ready-to-wear collection from watching awards shows and related fashion reviews, in which gowns typically range from $3,000 to $6,000.
Dennis did not return calls on Wednesday, while Rob Feinberg, president of Kay Unger, would only say that nothing about the potential deal had yet been decided.
Dennis was the first designer to sign with Pegasus in March. She had broken her three-year-old ties in November 1999 with Cheil Industries, a subsidiary of Samsung Group of South Korea, because her original backer wouldn’t support marketing plans for the firm.
She has built her name in the evening category largely by dressing a roster of celebrities, from Calista Flockhart to Liv Tyler to Jamie Lee Curtis, in sleek eveningwear and separates looks, but her sales, at stores like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys and Nordstrom, have remained relatively small.
The designer retains a minority ownership stake in her firm, as does Samsung, although company officials have said it is a small percentage.