NEW YORK — The economy, the challenges of running a fashion business, debt and the inability to secure financial backing can all factor into a designer’s decision to close shop, but for Jane Mayle, an out-of-control fashion system was the ultimate trigger behind calling it quits on her business after 10 years.
The Mayle holiday-resort collection that ships to stores this November will be her last and the boutique she operates at 242 Elizabeth Street here is slated to close in February. The expiration of her store’s lease then caused Mayle to take a step back and reevaluate her options.
“We knew we didn’t want to reinvest in the neighborhood,” Mayle said. “It prompted me to think hard about where I was in business and where I wanted to go. The industry has changed so much, and the little niche we entered when I started the brand, and the demands in this niche have changed, so I asked myself, ‘Do I want to keep participating?’”
Unlike many of her contemporaries, Mayle took a less traditional route, opting to forgo the usual runway showings to rely on more of a word-of-mouth approach and focus on her retail operation. She launched her business with the 400-square-foot boutique called Phare in 1998, but renamed it Mayle and started wholesaling her line a year later. The designer quickly earned a following with downtown types who embraced her “magpie aesthetic” that had the feel of old-world romance.
Today, Mayle said her business is healthier than ever, raking in annual sales of $5 million with 65 wholesale accounts worldwide, including Barneys New York, Opening Ceremony, Louis Boston and Harvey Nichols.
Yet she was turned off by the ever-accelerating fashion system, its out-of-whack delivery cycle and the pressures to cave into the importance placed on media hype that can sometimes be counterproductive.
“It seems like a commercial cul-de-sac in a way that the customer gets tired before the collections even hit stores,” Mayle said. “How I came to this business was all about dreaming and building a wardrobe you would be seduced by. That mystery and remoteness and insouciance have disappeared from fashion in order to accelerate the product. I feel I have just become another cog in that machinery.”
The demands, she added, affected her ability to get her hands on the quality fabrics she sought, for instance.
“It’s become so overaccelerated that I felt the only way to make things meaningful is to stop doing them,” she said.
Mayle wouldn’t disclose details of her next move, but said she is not necessarily turning her back on fashion.
“What I learned from having this business, I could apply anywhere,” she said. “It could be interiors, graphics, scents — anything evoking an atmosphere. That’s where I’d like to situate myself.”