ISHII OPENS A NEWS ROOM
Byline: Janet Ozzard
NEW YORK — There’s been a Staff turnover at 495 Broadway.
Staff USA, the showroom/ press office/distribution center for fashion’s avant-garde, including Martin Margiela and Vivienne Westwood, is taking a new course starting next week. The corporate name will be The News Inc. and the showroom will be called News. It will handle the sales and marketing of a handful of young design firms.
Stella Ishii, Staff USA’s president since its founding in 1994, is shifting direction because Staff International, the Italian fashion manufacturer, was sold in April to Diesel Jeans, the Italian denim and sportswear company. Staff, with sales of about $25 million, is based near Vicenza in northeastern Italy. It owns the New York Industrie and Gym brands and holds the licenses for Margiela, Westwood and Atsuro Tayama. It also produces Diesel’s fashion-forward sportswear line, DieselStyleLab, under license.
Ishii found out about the new owners when she read about the change in WWD.
“Sandro Dal Pra [the owner] called me the next morning and apologized,” said Ishii in an interview Monday morning in Staff’s 10,000-square-foot showroom. “Although he made that decision thinking it was best for the company, it was difficult for him, I think, to have to tell people. He founded Staff and ran it for 20 years.”
Although Diesel now owned the Italian parent, Staff USA is a separate company. Ishii said that she could have stayed on and formed a relationship with Diesel, but “I had this gut feeling that it was time to do something new, even though it meant giving up a chunk of my business. I thought about it for a long time.” Staff’s wholesale sales are estimated at between $10 million and $15 million per year.
News will continue to do press relations for Costume National, said Ishii. But Staff USA now will be run by Diesel’s U.S. offices, which are located, conveniently, a few floors above Ishii’s.
Some of the 10 new labels that News will be working with have strong editorial reputations, like Wink, Susan Cianciolo, Jurgi Persoons, Orfi, Sold by Jenisa Washington, Laura Urbinati, Mayle (formerly Phare) and Slinky Vagabond men’s wear.
The remainder — accessories by Jody Busby and apparel from Eley Kishimoto, a young London-based company — are fairly unknown. What all have in common is that “these are tiny companies that need a little help,” said Ishii. None has sales more than $1 million wholesale. Some, like Busby and Washington, have been in business barely a year.
“These companies aren’t big, but they’re important to the stores,” said the soft-spoken Ishii, who worked with Comme des Garcons for 14 years and as a freelance stylist for one year before starting up Staff. “And what we, as an office, are good at is promoting designers. We’re tuned into how to build a designer’s business.” Ishii has a staff of 11, including one full-time gallery manager who oversees the rotating exhibits displayed at the front of the showroom.
“I’ve always been interested in the new generation of designers,” she said. “In the last few years, I’ve done less research because I haven’t really needed to, and at a certain point you just don’t have the capacity anymore. But, that’s the part I like.”
Although technically the name won’t kick in for a few more weeks until all the paperwork is finished, Ishii is already getting the new stationery and business cards ready for the Aug. 1 change.
The name “News” works on a few levels, said Ishii. “First of all, I like the idea that what we are doing is news. And then the letters — N, E, W, S — can be north, east, west and south. I’d like to work with characteristic designers from all over the world.”