OFF TO VIETNAM: A group of 15 apparel and footwear executives is taking part in a one-week trade mission that ends Sunday to Vietnam hosted by the American Apparel & Footwear Association and law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, which has a large apparel importer practice. Executives from Sara Lee, Russell Corp., Cannon County Knitting/Val D’Or Inc., DuPont and HMX Tailored, a division of Hartmarx Corp., will join others to explore sourcing opportunities in Vietnam. The U.S. implemented its bilateral trade agreement with Vietnam on Jan.1, which allows the country the same trading rights as most other trading nations and dramatically lowers tariffs on imports to the U.S., including apparel, from an average of 60 percent.
FASHION HISTORY: First Lady Laura Bush on Sunday, the anniversary of her husband’s inaugural, gave her Michael Faircloth inaugural gown and coat to the Smithsonian Institution, where visitors can also feel a swatch of the scarlet lace dress. Bush also donated her matching satin Stuart Weitzman pumps and Judith Leiber evening purse. After the First Lady arrived with her inaugural duds, the coat, dress, shoe and purse ensemble were quickly installed on two mannequins made to resemble her. The outfits, although officially part of the Smithsonian Institution’s First Ladies Collection, are on display in “The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden” exhibition.
BREATHING ROOM: Guilford Mills Inc.’s lenders have deferred an interest payment and extended a waiver, set to expire last Friday, of the textile firm’s non-compliance with certain financial covenants to Feb. 15. President and chief executive John Emrich, said Guilford “is working closely with its investment bankers at Rothschild Inc. in order to develop a senior debt restructuring plan.”
INTER-NOT: Bernard Arnault, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman, is in negotiations with British Internet bank Egg for the sale of Zebank, the online bank Arnault launched last year. The transaction would be another step away from cyberspace for Arnault, recently one of France’s most vocal online champions. Through his Europatweb venture capital vehicle, he aggressively amassed about 50 online firms before the market crumbled. Over the last year, though, he has reduced his Internet holdings and seen other ventures, such as the high-profile online fashion retailer boo.com, fail. Zebank, which claims some 100,000 accounts, is owned 80 percent by Arnault’s family holding, Groupe Arnault, and 20 percent by Dexia, the Franco-Belgian bank. It is not clear whether Dexia wishes to retain its stake, but it is believed that Arnault will remain a minority shareholder in Zebank’s new structure. It is also believed that Arnault is negotiating with Egg to distribute its credit card at Paris’s La Samaritaine department store, owned by LVMH.
LICENSE TO SELL: Warnaco Group has received approval of the U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan to sell the stock and assets of its GJM business to Bahamas-based Luen Thai Overseas Ltd. for $10.1 million in cash plus assumption of liabilities, according to wire service reports at press time. GMJ, based in Hong Kong, makes intimate apparel and sleepwear for Victoria’s Secret and Wal-Mart, as well as Speedo and Calvin Klein Underwear that are distributed by other Warnaco divisions. GMJ had $76 million in sales in 2000. Warnaco filed for Chapter 11 protection in June.