STAYING WARM AND ON TIME: Making good on a quest to expand its $300 million-plus empire, BCBG Max Azria Group has signed two licensing deals for men’s and women’s watches and outerwear with Geneva and Winlit Group Ltd., respectively. The licensees will oversee design, distribution and sales, but BCBG maintains it will provide the final design approval, according to president Ben Malka.

This story first appeared in the January 28, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We’ve taken a lot of time to find these partners to create a strong cultural fit, and we intend to work with them to ensure the products stay true to the brand,” he said. The BCBG Max Azria watch collection bows for fall, featuring timepieces with leather straps, stainless steel bracelets and bangles and textured dials. Men’s will follow in fall 2005, with overall watch wholesale prices ranging from about $55 to $140.

Women’s outerwear will also launch this fall, followed by men’s in spring 2005, targeting select department stores as well as BCBG boutiques. The BCBG Max Azria outerwear collection will offer furs, rainwear, leathers, luxury wools and active styles. Wholesale prices will run from $110 to $440. The agreements follow the company’s announcement in October to return to men’s wear after a three-year hiatus with a licensing partnership with Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. for dress shirts and ties set to bow in time for Father’s Day. Two years ago, Max Azria said he had about 20 potential licensing ideas in mind.

VANS SUIT: Vans Inc. has denied charges stemming from a shareholder lawsuit alleging the company made false statements about earnings. Announced Friday, the lawsuit was filed by the firm Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on behalf of people who acquired Vans stock between March 24,1999 and May 23, 2002. The complaint alleges that beginning in 1998, the defendants orchestrated a scheme designed to inflate EPS on a quarterly basis and to misstate the value of inventory. In a statement Monday, Vans asserted the lawsuit’s claims “are factually incorrect and without merit” and the footwear and apparel company plans to “vigorously defend itself.” The suit seeks class-action status. Vans recently raised its third-quarter and fiscal-year earnings estimates as holiday business rose above expected levels. Industry observers say the company is getting its house in order with the closure of skate parks and has amassed a strong cash base. As of the second quarter ended Nov. 29, 2003, the company had $63.87 million in cash and cash equivalents.