Charlotte Ronson is taking control.
This story first appeared in the December 16, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
After five years, the contemporary designer has parted ways with her Japanese licensee, Sanei International. She has brought all operations in-house to Ronson’s New York office.
“We felt that there was beginning to be too much of a disconnect between the product in the U.S. and the product in Japan,” Ronson said. “It just felt a little young in Japan and not up to the level that it is in the States.”
Ronson said the Charlotte Ronson brand sells at retailers such as Shopbop.com, Saks Fifth Avenue and Blue & Cream in the U.S. In Japan, the label was sold in much younger stores such as Marui in Tokyo.
As part of the break in the partnership with Sanei, all 13 shop-in-shops and the one freestanding Charlotte Ronson store in Japan will close by the end of next month.
“We were sending Marui our collection in the U.S. and they were also selling our Japanese collection,” said Aaron Nir, chief executive officer of Charlotte Ronson, who was formerly the U.S. president of Sanei. “It was just way too confusing for the customer.”
Nir said that over the course of the relationship with Sanei, he and Ronson became frustrated since they didn’t have approval rights over what was produced.
“It just became further away from what we are. I see it as a lesson on how to be careful when licensing abroad,” Nir said. “Sanei did some great things for the brand over there on a marketing front, but when it came to production, we just weren’t happy about where it was headed.”
Nir said he is in talks with a few Japanese firms to produce a line there. But for now, everything is being handled in-house, and overall, the transition will be seamless. Nir hopes to have a partner on board in time to distribute the spring 2010 collection.
Looking forward, Nir said he also is working on launching the I [Heart] Ronson line in Japan, which will bring the Ronson brand to a mass audience there. Ideally, he said, that relationship would work in a similar way to how it works in the U.S., with I [Heart] Ronson selling exclusively at J.C. Penney and the Charlotte Ronson line selling at higher-end specialty stores.