PEGASUS TAKES STAKE IN ANGELA AMIRI, SAID TO BE IN TALKS WITH JUDITH LEIBER

Byline: Wendy Hessen / With contributions from Eric Wilson

NEW YORK — The Pegasus Apparel Group is making its first foray into accessories by taking a majority stake in young Los Angeles-based handbag designer Angela Amiri.
And a deal for another, more well known accessories label could come shortly.
Pegasus, according to sources, may be closing in on a deal for Judith Leiber. The company is said to be one of two firms in serious talks with Leiber’s owner, London-based Time Products. A spokesman for Pegasus declined to comment, and Time Products executives could not be reached.
The burgeoning Pegasus stable already includes eveningwear designer Pamela Dennis, rising star Miguel Adrover and Daryl Kerrigan of Daryl K. Discussions reportedly are continuing with Cynthia Rowley.
Meanwhile, after months of negotiations, officials of Pegasus and John Bartlett confirmed that they will not be forging a deal.
Nickelson Wooster, president of Bartlett, said last week that Pegasus and Bartlett had ended their discussions, but he declined to comment on why the negotiations had failed.
A spokesman for Pegasus declined to elaborate beyond confirming that the deal was off, but company officials have indicated in the past that they are looking to develop individual business plans that will break each of its labels into the black within three years.
Sources close to Bartlett said the designer is talking to several other potential investors about production deals. He broke off a licensing agreement for his collection production with Byblos in March that will terminate with his fall collection.
As for Pegasus’ latest acquisition, Angela Amiri has only been in business for about 18 months. The designer focuses on simple, streamlined silhouettes crafted of leather and vintage or vintage-inspired textiles, which are sometimes accented with crystal or semiprecious stones.
With sales estimated to be between $500,000 and $750,000, Amiri’s business is considerably smaller than the $10 million to $20 million range Pegasus has been targeting for its collection of labels.
But the firm thinks Amiri — who has worked for over 14 years in the industry in both apparel and accessories for such firms as Bill Blass, Charlotte Neuville and Gloria Sachs — could morph into a major force.
“We were very impressed by the quality and design integrity of Angela’s products,” said Stephen L. Ruzow, chairman and chief executive officer of Pegasus, when he was interviewed separately about the Amiri deal. “We’re happy that she is our first acquisition in the accessories area, and, based on our own observations and talking to retailers, we think she has incredible potential.”
Amiri’s first orders came from Neiman Marcus and Ultimo, and she also sells to major stores in Japan, including Isetan, Mitsubishi and Joyce in Hong Kong.
Reached in L.A., Amiri said: “I was very interested in forming this partnership. With Pegasus’ resources and level of management experience, they will be able to get me to the next level. Together we can broaden my distribution within the same caliber of accounts and help provide me with a staff.”
Ruzow said Pegasus would move quickly to expand Amiri’s company beyond what has literally been a one-woman operation.
“We will diversify her production to Italy, the Orient and other areas around the world and will also immediately focus on building her international business through our organization in Japan,” he said, adding that the firm is close to hiring executives to oversee sales and sourcing and product development, though he declined to elaborate.
Until the August accessories market week opens next week, Amiri will show her line in a yet-to-be-chosen hotel suite in New York and then participate in Accessorie Circuit, her first trade show ever, which opens Sunday. After the Circuit, Amiri will operate temporarily out of a 2,500-square-foot showroom space within the new Pegasus corporate headquarters at 530 Seventh Avenue, which the firm will move into on Aug. 7.
When the first Angela Amiri retail store opens here, slated for early next year, Ruzow said the location in intended to also have room for a corporate showroom.
“We will start to look at real estate very quickly,” said Ruzow. “We expect the first store will likely be downtown and we will probably open a second store in L.A. in 2002, and then evaluate the rollout from there. Angela has had a great Hollywood clientele from the beginning and we want to capitalize on that.”
Amiri said she would like to add small leather goods and eventually even clothing to her assortment and while vintage fabrics would still be a part of the handbag line, they may be seen more as accents or in the linings of the bags instead of being the entire focus of the line.
“While I started out using only vintage fabrics, the line has grown to include much more in the way of reorderable materials,” she said, noting the current wholesale range of about $110 to $170 will be lowered slightly to include pieces that start at about $90.
If the Leiber deal were to materialize, Pegasus would land one of the most well-known and respected names in accessories. Best known for her crystal-laden minaudieres, Leiber has been a stable resource for upscale department stores for nearly 30 years. Luxury goods veteran Victor Lipko became ceo in 1996 and has been credited with taking it from an entrepreneurial shop to a significant brand equity business.
Wholesale accounts include Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s. The company operates stores of its own, including units on Madison Avenue here; in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, Calif., and in the Forum shops in Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas. Time Products purchased Leiber in March 1993 for $18.2 million. Industry sources estimate the combined value of wholesale and retail at roughly $20 million.

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