The Bill Blass brand is slowly pedaling back into the brick-and-mortar channel.
This story first appeared in the March 7, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The brand will be an exclusive at Bloomingdale’s this spring, showing its apparel, handbag and footwear line, according to Stuart Goldblatt, president and chief operating officer of the Bill Blass Group LLC.
Plans are still being finalized but are expected to include a Bill Blass pop-up shop in Bloomingdale’s in April at select locations including the flagship at 59th Street in Manhattan, and then have the products in their respective category locations, also at select stores. The product also will be available on the Blass e-commerce site. There are about 200 stockkeeping units total.
The Blass brand was pulled off the market in 2012 when the company decided to shutter its the designer and couture business. After that, the company elected to let its licenses expire before determining how to bring the brand back to market. Goldblatt said a consumer insight study surveying more than 3,000 individuals indicated “tremendous recognition of the name.” The company decided that repositioning the brand in the contemporary space was where it had the best opportunity.
Marketing and design of the Blass brand are now under the direction of creative director Chris Benz. The design group has five full timers on staff.
Apparel price points range from $48 for a tank top to $1,900 for a sequined dress, while footwear ranges from $250 to $300 a pair. “The core of the business — handbags — average $400, but can range from $350 to $800,” Goldblatt said.
Although just women’s wear for now, Goldblatt said there are plans to include men’s and home down the road.
The brand was relaunched in November on the company’s Web site as an e-commerce business. It is also on two other affiliate marketing online sites — Orchard Mile and Spring — and, from the end of April, will be on Lyst.
Goldblatt has big plans for the brand. A key area of focus is opening flagships globally. The first one is planned for 2017 in New York. That is likely to be followed by one in Los Angeles, and then others in Hong Kong and Seoul, South Korea. Goldblatt said the overseas interest has been primarily from Asia.
The Blass brand in its heyday was about a $750 million business, but it has had numerous ups and downs since Blass retired in 1999. He died in 2002. The current look of the brand under Benz’s direction has emphasized color, embellishments and prints.
Peter and Cin Kim acquired the brand for $10 million in December 2008 from NexCen Brands Inc. Ownership initially was under the holding company Peacock International. The assets were soon placed into a new holding company, Bill Blass Group. Peacock Apparel, a separate business, is still in operation. When NexCen acquired the brand for cash and stock in December 2006, it paid $54.6 million. That number got upped by another $425,000 plus $950,000 in loan forgiveness when Bill Blass Couture, the ready-to-wear unit, was acquired.