The rapid pace and changing dynamics in the fashion industry have claimed another casualty. Corey Lynn Calter has ceased the wholesale operations for her Los Angeles-based contemporary brand, Corey, to build her direct-to-consumer e-commerce business and fulfill her burgeoning interest in jewelry and home decor. The last collection for her 16-year-old apparel line shipped to stores this summer.
“I sat down with my staff and said, ‘I need a break,’” she said. “The industry hasn’t felt right in my opinion. It’s not just the economy. It felt broken.”
Particularly difficult was watching how the wholesale business has been evolving. In May, Scoop NYC started liquidating its 15 stores stocked with contemporary fashion after it gave up the battle against high rents in a challenging retail market.
“With buyers,” Calter said, “they were chasing what they felt customers wanted but were afraid to take a risk. Who was running the business anymore? Was the consumer running it? Was the buyer running it? The designer wasn’t running it.”
Calter has been running her company — including developing product, handling private label projects and designing 1,200 styles for her own 10 collections a year — all by herself as the sole owner. A graduate of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, she started her career by making corsets and selling them to Patricia Field. After moving to Los Angeles from New York, she turned her home kitchen into a studio, drawing her own patterns and stitching samples for her line, which launched in the spring of 2000. Four years ago, she tried re-branding her business for the social media age, shortening the company’s moniker to Corey from her full name and collaborating with Seychelles on a collection of wedges and gladiator sandals. Her retailers included Dari in Studio City, Calif., American Rag Cie in Los Angeles, Amazon.com and Anthropologie, which was her biggest and longest-running account. At her peak, she generated annual sales of $6.5 million.
“It wasn’t that I wanted to stop designing,” she said. “I just wanted to move away from how I was working.”
Under a new label called CLC by Corey Lynn Calter, the designer is introducing sleepwear, jewelry, home decor and limited-edition collections of her wearable and whimsical sportswear online. Produced in the U.S., her jewelry falls under the one-of-a-kind classification, retailing from $500 to $900. There are stacking rings embedded with black opal and earrings cobbled together from slices of watermelon tourmaline and 14-karat gold.
She’s also working on furniture inspired by mid-century design, Morocco and the contrast of metals and plastic. Retailing for between $800 and $1,200, and made in the U.S., the furniture line includes brass vintage tea trays anchored by Lucite bases and big Lucite ottomans accented with brass rims.
“It all started with the project for our Palm Springs home,” Calter said.
And the home is where her heart is. Take pajamas, which she deemed “the perfect garment.” For a recent art party, she donned a $280 black silk charmeuse pant set with heels that were adorned with a big furry ball.
“It felt great,” she said. “I was like, ‘This old thing?’ I’m happy to do something I’m excited about and believe in.”