Liz Claiborne Inc. has enlisted Isaac Mizrahi to rescue its struggling flagship brand.


Mizrahi is leaving Target Corp. — the venue that introduced him to the mainstream customer — at the end of this year and will become creative director for all categories of the better-priced women’s Liz Claiborne brand, beginning in spring 2009.


William L. McComb, chief executive officer of the $4.99 billion Liz Claiborne Inc., told WWD that the “long-term” deal — the brainchild of Dave McTague, executive vice president of partnered brands for Liz Claiborne Inc. — has been in the works for months.


“Dave walked in the door with a charter to fill the emotional vacuum of the brand,” McComb said. “Liz Claiborne is an extremely well-known, well-regarded brand that failed to deliver on the core values that made it great in the first place: color, fit, value and style. The turning point was when Liz Claiborne died [in June], and we got lots of calls and letters from consumers who didn’t know she hadn’t been working here since 1989.”


Claiborne is hopeful that Mizrahi can bring his fashion wit and color sense to the struggling women’s collection.


Mizrahi’s appointment follows Monday’s announcement that John Bartlett will design the Claiborne men’s sportswear line, under the label Claiborne by John Bartlett, also launching for spring 2009. Unlike the men’s line, the core Liz Claiborne collection will not be called Liz Claiborne by Isaac Mizrahi, though his association with the brand will be clear on the labels.


“Isaac is an international icon,” McTague said. “He not only knows this woman, he adores her. His core values are so perfectly aligned with our core brand: fit, color, comfort, value, fun and a uniquely American brand.”


Mizrahi replaces Richard Ostell, who has designed the line since 2005. Karen Harvey Consulting conducted the search.

For more, see Wednesday’s edition of WWD.

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