NEW YORK — As Vestimenta tackles the final stages of taking over the Calvin Klein collection business as a licensee, the Italian manufacturer is building an expanded infrastructure for its U.S. operations, including a new chief executive officer and showroom, and potentially, new stores.
This story first appeared in the November 17, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Bob Green, who formerly headed the U.S. arm of Ermenegildo Zegna, has been named president and ceo of Vestimenta Inc., overseeing its American operations and the integration of the Calvin Klein business here. In an interview at Calvin Klein headquarters last week, Green said Vestimenta, which got the license for the designer line in February, was moving quickly to expand its business in New York to handle sales and marketing of the line.
As reported, Calvin Klein Inc.’s deal with Vestimenta, which was signed shortly after CKI was acquired by Phillips-Van Heusen, called for a phased-in approach to taking over the running the collection business. Vestimenta has already completed the initial stages of production and distribution of the line, beginning with fall merchandise currently in stores. The final step — taking responsibility for sales and marketing — is expected to be complete by January.
As part of that strategy, Vestimenta is opening a showroom for Calvin Klein in the Fuller Building at 595 Madison Avenue, where it currently houses its Vestimenta men’s and women’s collections. The company has taken on a separate floor for the Calvin Klein men’s and women’s collections, Green said. The move of Klein’s collection from its longtime offices at 205 West 39th Street to Madison Avenue in Manhattan will affect about two-dozen jobs, including sales managers and store coordinators, although Vestimenta has not yet determined whether it will rehire the same employees or bring in new ones.
Green was formerly executive vice president for sales and marketing at Ermenegildo Zegna USA, where he worked for nine years. Prior to that, he had worked for the Baltimore-based Schoeneman company for 17 years, where he started as a sales trainee and left as a senior vice president.
His selection to head the Vestimenta business in the U.S. was seen by executives at both companies as an important point of connection between Calvin Klein and Vestimenta. Because of his long history of working with a family-controlled Italian business, he also was seen as having the necessary experience of understanding the intricacies of a collection that is designed in New York, produced in Italy and then sold back in New York.
“Vestimenta is taking a new strategy in the global market,” Green said. “Vestimenta has had a great luxury brand for a long time with its own product for men and women, but now we are marketing other products, as well.”
Roberto Zanetto, managing director and ceo of Vestimenta SpA, added that Green’s immediate focus will be on the physical collaboration with the Calvin Klein organization.
“All of the organization is working in a very positive direction with this collection,” Zanetto said. “We think the production of the collection of Calvin Klein is a good opportunity for us because the level of the product really corresponds to our point of view in terms of image, quality, character and the balance of the collection.”
From the vantage point of CKI, the transition of the production of the line has gone better than expected, although there were a few bumps with fall deliveries, which, in some cases, were behind schedule. However, the quality and fit exceeded expectations, and current sell-throughs for fall have been “very good,” said Tom Murry, president and chief operating officer of CKI.
The women’s and men’s collections continue to generate in the neighborhood of $30 million to $40 million in retail sales annually, but moving the production and distribution responsibilities to Vestimenta is a key strategy for CKI under its ownership by PVH, since the collections also have posted losses of roughly $20 million annually in recent years. Vestimenta is taking on the responsibility of making them profitable within its own operations.
“We’re right on schedule,” Murry said. “We were really looking for someone with Bob’s kind of background and experience, who has a thorough understanding of the business in the U.S., to make sure we capitalize on all the opportunities that exist for the collection.”
In the near future, the company has identified several opportunities for building all of its collection businesses, including the men’s and women’s lines, but also in augmenting the scope of its accessories lines.
Through Vestimenta’s existing supply relationships with Trussardi, Calvin Klein expects to improve the quality of its accessories and hopefully develop that area as a more significant business for the house. Zanetto added that the Calvin Klein accessories business has increased by 30 to 40 percent within Europe since Vestimenta took over the production there in March, and he anticipates the gain could be equally significant in the U.S.
Also in the immediate future, Murry disclosed plans to open a Calvin Klein store in Moscow next spring in the Crocus City Mall, in a location adjacent to existing Versace, Byblos and Emanuel Ungaro boutiques. The 2,000-square-foot space is being developed as a joint venture with a local company, a template for retail franchising that could be replicated in cities around the world. Another area the company is closely looking at for retail expansion is Italy, where CKI is currently exploring locations in Rome, Milan and Venice.
While CKI is looking at a number of partners to operate overseas locations, he noted that “we’re not opposed to owning and operating them ourselves.”