Quality, fit, fashion and value.
Those are the key attributes of any successful fashion brand — and the Vince collection went wrong in all of them, according to Vince Holdings Corp.’s chief executive officer Brendan Hoffman.
The problems at the brand were evident in its third-quarter results. While Vince’s numbers beat Wall Street expectations, the company again lowered guidance for fiscal 2015. As a result, its shares got hammered, falling 18.6 percent Friday to close at $4.59.
Hoffman, who became ceo in October, knows his work is cut out for him. “I like to swim in the deep end,” he said Friday.
The first order of business has been getting the “quality back to where it was [and] the fit to where it was. Vince is known for consistent fit. We also need to look at the price-value relationship, as well as the look and sensibility of the product. It’s gone a little bit off-line in many different aspects of where it used to look like,” the ceo said.
Helping Hoffman and the merchandising team are founders Rea Laccone and Christopher LaPolice. The duo last month signed a two-year consulting agreement.
“If the first month is any indication, they are involved 24/7. They are fully immersed in the business, both when they are on-site and off-site, judging by the e-mails and texts we exchange,” Hoffman said. He called the arrangement “indefinite,” referring to the two-year time frame as just a starting point.
The ceo said when he joined the firm he spoke with the board about reaching out to LaPolice, whom he knew, and learned that overtures had already been made. That led to a meeting with Laccone. “The three of us really hit it off and it was kind of off to the races from there,” he said.
While Laccone works out of the L.A. office to develop the line — women’s and men’s apparel, handbags and women’s footwear — LaPolice has the role of “main liaison with the rest of the organization to imprint the Vince DNA so we have a singular identity as we reach out to our [retail] customers.” The footwear line is licensed out, so Laccone has reached out to them to “influence the fall line there as well. She envisions an outfit from the shoe up, and was quick to make sure we would be consistent across all product categories,” Hoffman explained.
There are no plans to add any categories until the core line is completed, although Hoffman, who has a 12-year-old daughter, said he would like to get back into the children’s business.
Although he declined to discuss what ails the overall contemporary market, Hoffman said as far as Vince is concerned, “There is an opportunity there for Vince. As we get the product back on track, there is an important place for us in our department store partners and in our own retail outlets. I have no sense of concern [that there are] any issues in the contemporary space that would constrain Vince’s growth potential in the future.”
Given the time element involved — inconsistencies in the product line for the past year and another year out to see real impact from the new line — Hoffman said he wasn’t concerned that the consumer might have gone elsewhere for their fashion fix. “Judging by the research I did with our [retail] partners, the consumers still connect with the brand….There’s still a place for it in her closet,” he said.
For now, the company continues with plans to build out the number of shops-in-shop, is switching to a new e-commerce platform next year and will be evolving its presence in the digital world.
The holiday delivery next year will be the first in which Laccone will be able to fully show her floor set. For the next several quarters, there still will be some “legacy product flushing through the system,” Hoffman said.