FREDERICK’S RETURNS TO ‘ORIGINAL SIN’
Byline: Karyn Monget
NEW YORK — Frederick’s of Hollywood may have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July, but that hasn’t stopped the lingerie specialist from maintaining its saucy image.
Linda LoRe, Frederick’s president and chief executive officer came to New York recently to press that point at the company’s 55th anniversary retrospective fashion show called “The Original Sin Tea — 55 Years of Leading Hearts into Temptation.”
Replete with an English high tea of scones and Devonshire cream, finger sandwiches and pastries, an informal fashion show at the Bloom Ballroom focused on what LoRe said Frederick’s “does best”: Domintarix-inspired corsets, sheer lace teddys and barely visible thong-backs, cleavage-enhancing bras and coordinating novelty bikinis, and peek-a-boo baby dolls.
The newest breast-enhancing bra — The Wet Kiss Bra — is another generation of one of the firm’s most successful launches in 1999, The Hollywood Kiss Bra.
“We’ve stopped apologizing for who we are — we represent sexy fun,” said LoRe in an interview before the show. “We really don’t get credit for a lot of firsts like the padded bra and thongs. When Frederick Mellinger brought black lingerie to the American market from France, it really was very scandalous. This [retrospective] event is us reclaiming our birthright.”
Up until 1946, basic white cotton represented the staple undergarment for American women. The company’s late founder, Frederick Mellinger, began selling black bras and panties in the U.S. through a specialty mail-order business and Frederick’s landmark store in Hollywood. The store was called the “purple palace” among the trade until it received a facelift in the early Nineties, and was redone in a softer shade of pink.
Regarding the state of Frederick’s business, LoRe said, “To date, we have exceeded our sales plan by $2 million, and cash receipts are about $1 million ahead of plan.”
In a letter LoRe said was sent to suppliers in late September, she stated, “Stores have the greatest challenge due to the below-planned flow of merchandise. Inventory levels have been off as much as $4 million at retail, and yet sales are still running 3 percent ahead of plan. We have been chasing receipts since the approval of the DIP loan facility, even though we have ample resources to pay our obligation.”
The company posted annual sales of approximately $140 million in the fiscal year ended July 31.
In other developments, LoRe noted that the fredericks.com Web site was relaunched in August, and visits to the site per day have doubled to 16,000 and sales are 25 percent ahead of projections.
“We asked consumers to participate in a marketing survey, and in the past 3 1/2 weeks, we have received an astounding 22,000 responses,” said LoRe. “Our core customer shops a lot on the Internet and is 18-to-34. Forty percent are married. They watch a lot of TV like MTV and shows like “Friends” and “Sex and the City.”
Redesigning the catalog and its image — which Frederick’s executives have been trying to clean up for the past decade — has been a work in progress. The catalog still focuses on novelty merchandise such as adult “fantasy costumes” for Halloween, but the models have more of a contemporary look and the merchandise is showcased as more fashion product with expensive-looking European laces and embroideries, stretch velvets and microfiber. The catalogs customer file is one million.
Asked what the number-one selling costume is, LoRe replied: “This year Harem Girl pushed French Maid into second place.”