BARTLETT, BYBLOS PART COMPANY
Byline: Janet Ozzard
NEW YORK — It’s finally over.
After providing grist aplenty for the rumor mill during the most recent round of fall fashion shows, John Bartlett and Byblos SpA have officially ended their licensing agreement. The Byblos men’s and women’s fall 2000 collections will be the last designed by Bartlett. However, he has a non-binding two-season contract to consult for Byblos starting with spring 2001.
Bartlett also has an agreement with Byblos to produce his signature women’s and men’s collections; that will end with the fall 2000 collections. He was travelling and could not be reached for comment. However, a spokeswoman for Bartlett Unlimited, his U.S. company, noted he is now free to find another manufacturer.
The split is yet another stress fracture for Byblos, owned and produced by the Ancona-based Genny Holding SpA, which has sales of about $110 million. Bartlett is the brand’s third designer in five years, and his departure underlines Byblos’s slide since its heyday 10 years ago.
In the early Nineties, Byblos was a hot Italian designer brand under the design team of Alan Cleaver and Keith Varty, with a global sales volume of about $150 million.
But by 1995, the duo’s shows were being panned and sales were dropping every year. Cleaver and Varty were fired and Girombelli brought in Richard Tyler to revive the brand. Tyler did three seasons’ worth of men’s and women’s collections — which were generally poorly received — before terminating his three-year contract. Genny chief executive officer Donatella Girombelli, who had already clinched a deal to make Bartlett’s men’s line and launch his women’s line, signed him to do Byblos as well in November 1996. He was responsible for licensed product and company image as well as the four collections each year.
But friction has been building between Bartlett and Girombelli. For example, during the most recent Milan fashion shows, Bartlett’s U.S. press office called Ameri-can editors to ask them not to go to the show, saying the Milan press office had resigned en masse and there was no one to handle seating.
Bartlett’s only remaining Byblos responsibilities now will be to do sketches, fabric swatches and trend and inspiration boards for Byblos for the next two seasons. A spokeswoman for him here said that it will be Byblos’s decision whether or not to execute those ideas.
Currently, it’s not known who, if anyone, will succeed Bartlett.
One rumor has Genny shuttering Byblos to focus on its house brand, which recently opened a New York flagship that houses its signature collection, designed by the Paris-based Josephus Thimister.