Byline: Eric Wilson / With contributions from Antonia Sardone

NEW YORK — It may have launched with quite a splash last year, but the Perry Ellis women’s sportswear collection has just been blown out of the water.
Allan Zwerner, president of licensing for Perry Ellis International, confirmed on Thursday that the company has pulled its license for women’s better sportswear, which launched at retail last fall, from the Goodman Group, a division of Kellwood Co.
The collections, which had marked the return of the Perry Ellis and Perry Ellis Portfolio labels to the women’s sportswear market for the first time since Marc Jacobs designed for the label in 1992, were launched last January in Miami Beach with an elaborate fashion show staged over the famous pool of the Raleigh Hotel.
It was a splashy entrance, with an estimated launch plan of 180 stores and projections for the women’s collection to reach $200 million within a couple of years. But executives at both firms would not offer many details on the surprise and sudden termination of the license on Thursday.
“Kellwood believed in the Perry Ellis product and had a wonderful team supporting it, yet the business was marginal,” said a spokeswoman for Kellwood. “With the current environment in the market sector we are selling and the overall slowness at retail, we feel it is in the best interest of the stockholders to move forward.”
Zwerner would not comment beyond confirming the license had been pulled, although he said Perry Ellis International “definitely has plans” to approach the women’s sportswear market again in the future. Sources at Perry Ellis said that there were creative conflicts over the line under Kellwood’s direction, complaining that it did not meet the image Perry Ellis was trying to define with its relaunch and related $10 million dollar advertising campaign shot last year by Mario Sorrenti.
The Perry Ellis trademarks were acquired by the Miami-based men’s sportswear firm Supreme International in January 1999 for $74.7 million, and were relaunched in a rebranding effort the following year. It was the first major brand acquisition for Supreme, which owns trademarks such as Penguin Sport, Manhattan Shirts and John Henry. The company was renamed Perry Ellis International following the transaction.
The company was most recently involved in bidding for the trademark, inventory and receivables of bankrupt Bugle Boy Industries, but was bested by a $68.6 million offer from Schottenstein Stores in a six-hour auction in Los Angeles in March.
Kellwood’s better sportswear collection was viewed as a key element of anticipated growth through women’s apparel for Perry Ellis, although the company has since launched other women’s products through licensing. Among its women’s categories are fragrance through Parlux, eyewear with Oxford, belts with Amiee-Lynn, dresses by AV2000 and sunglasses with Riviera Trading.
According to company officials, the Perry Ellis women’s business had previously peaked in 1987, when women’s products generated $660 million at retail.
But sales declined by the early Nineties and the former Perry Ellis company decided to get out of the manufacturing business and shut down its designer collection in February 1993, following the negative retail and press reaction to Marc Jacobs’s infamous grunge collections the previous year. Since then, Perry Ellis had essentially been in the men’s, boys’ and fragrance businesses, but also touched on women’s products such as outerwear, licensed to Fairbrooke Enterprises, and handbags made by Premier Designer Accessories. Neither license has been affected by the new developments.
The overall relaunch of Perry Ellis is being backed by a $10 million outdoor and print ad campaign, a 49.3 percent increase from its most recent ad campaign; a new in-store fixture program, and a new logo in the designer’s trademark slate blue launched with the fall 2000 collections. In Perry Ellis International’s most recent annual report, sales for the year ended Jan. 31 increased 14 percent, to $287.4 million.