LAZAR DROPS DESIGNER LINE FOR ‘EGG’

Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — Susan Lazar has the seven-year itch.
The sportswear designer, whose business has generated between $10 million and $12 million, said this week that she has ceased producing her designer line and, beginning in fall 2001, will launch a new line called Egg by Susan Lazar, comprising quintessential items distributed via specialty stores, the Web, a catalog and her own store.
She shipped her final designer collection and accessories to stores this spring. Her accounts include Saks Fifth Avenue; Bergdorf Goodman; Neiman Marcus; Henri Bendel; Dress Circle, a specialty store in Pittsburgh, and Knit Wit, a specialty store in Philadelphia.
Lazar, who launched her signature line in 1993 with a collection of accessories and outerwear, branched into sportswear in 1995. Her collection was known for its clean, classic pieces, as well as its luxe factor, with an assortment of cashmeres, camel hairs and angoras. Her business had been backed by her family, but last month she received new private financing.
Describing the new concept, Lazar told WWD, “It’s a lot smaller and different from what I did before.”
Plans call for a small collection of sportswear, including what Lazar described as “a great pant,” “a great jean,” and “the best underwear, beach towels or luggage,” as well as a Web site (eggbysusanlazar.com), catalog and eventual downtown store.
“We want to do it in a hip, fun way. We also want to get into some licensing agreements,” she said. The Web site is expected to go up in about six months, and items will be changed monthly.
“The way business is done now is changing very dramatically. I want to design not only sportswear, but a lifestyle collection for the modern woman,” said Lazar.
She added that items will also include sweaters, dresses, baby clothes, tops and cashmere blankets, wholesaling from $50 to $1,000.
Since women today have so many choices, Lazar said she wants to offer a more focused collection and have more direct contact with the consumer. In this way, she believes the message will be a lot clearer. She added that she believes that big fashion shows don’t really reach the ultimate customer.
“It’s been a wonderful experience to go into the stores and meet the customer. I want to control the marketing and distribution more and make it special and fun,” said Lazar.
She said she became frustrated with department store buyers who would come up to see the line, and then talk about what sold last season and want to repeat it.
“I really want to get more ‘hands-on’ with the distribution.” She also said as the company got bigger, her message got diluted. Now, instead of offering 115 pieces, she’ll offer 50.
Lazar said her company, which had employed about 25 people, will be downsized, although she declined to divulge how many would be staying. She also would not say whether Joel C. Orenstein, president and chief operating officer, would stay on and said lawyers were currently working out details for the new company.
“I support her, I believe in her. I think the concept is great,” said Orenstein. “It breaks down the infrastructure and gives her the ability to work from a lifestyle mood in all categories.” When asked whether he’ll stay with the new business, he said, “Hopefully. It’s still under negotiation. Other people are involved and it’s premature at this point.”
“We are transitioning into something else. The staff is much smaller now. We’re not producing anything at this moment,” said Lazar.
She said she made a fall collection, but decided not to produce it. “The company was growing financially — there was really no problem. As a designer, I have to change with what’s going on around me. It doesn’t make sense otherwise.”
She said she named the new business Egg since it represents a hatching, fertility, birth and newness.
“There’s so much power and strength in being a woman,” she said. “The word ‘egg’ is very symbolic. A woman is powerful in her ability to recreate.”