In the first fashion deal of the year, Elie Tahari Ltd. and Bluestar Alliance LLC have formed a new joint venture company, TBH Brand Holdings LLC.
This confirms a WWD report Dec. 7 that the two companies were in negotiations. The deal, which closed Jan. 1, is effective immediately.
Elie Tahari has contributed the intellectual property for the Tahari and T Tahari collections, along with related trademarks, into the joint venture with Bluestar, which will be responsible for the day-to-day management and licensing of those brands domestically and internationally.
In addition, TBH Brand Holdings will assume responsibility for the licensing management of the Elie Tahari core trademark with a focus on expanding the brand’s global presence and the opening of Elie Tahari stores worldwide.
The designer will retain ownership and manage the Elie Tahari brand.
In a separate but related transaction, Elie Tahari, Arthur Levine and Les Schreiber have contributed the intellectual property of the Tahari ASL trademark into a new company, TASL Brand Holdings LLC. With this partnership, Levine will continue to spearhead the growth of Tahari ASL, which will be licensed to a third party.
All combined, the family of Tahari brands exceed $500 million in retail sales today. Under Bluestar’s new leadership, the Tahari brands are expected to generate more than $1 billion in retail sales in the near term, said Ralph Gindi, chief operating officer of Bluestar.
In an interview Wednesday, Elie Tahari said of the tie-up with Bluestar: “It’s a good deal. They invested in the licensing company, and they’ll be doing all the licensing, and they’re going to get a percentage of it. The Collection stays the way it is. I own it and I run it. They’re mostly going to do Tahari and T Tahari.”
According to the designer, Tahari is the lower-priced sportswear line, T Tahari is a little bit higher and Elie Tahari is the highest priced. ASL Tahari is a women’s dress, suit and separates line. He said Bluestar will work on licensing for all the lines and will get a percentage. “They made a good investment in the company and I’m very happy with the deal,” he said.
Asked why he wanted to change the way he was conducting business, Tahari admitted, “Our industry became more and more difficult to operate. The only lucrative avenue is licensing, which brings revenue in. The business itself is tough. Department stores run their sales and we pay all the markdown money.”
He said stores have told him that his business is “good compared to other resources, but overall it’s down from three or four years ago.”
Under the partnership, Bluestar will handle licensing, international, opening stores and developing distribution deals overseas. “I’m just excited about licensing big business,” said Tahari, who started his company in 1973. “I will focus on the collection, and the collection is going to get so much better,” he added. Elie Tahari’s main accounts are Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s.
Tahari said he’d like to get into watches, perfumes, men’s wear and opening stores around the world. “They’re experts and are the best in the business, and they know all the players,” said Tahari. He said he has known the Bluestar owners for a long time. “I knew them personally and it was based on trust,” he said.
“They gave us enough money to cover all our debt so we are golden. They invested big money,” said Tahari, who will retain his showroom at 501 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and his design room at 510 Fifth Avenue. He plans a showroom presentation for the Elie Tahari collection in February during New York Fashion Week. He noted that the Elie Tahari employees will stay with Tahari’s firm.
“By partnering with Bluestar on the family of Tahari brands, this will allow me to focus my energies on strengthening and expanding the Elie Tahari business internationally and in the U.S,” said Tahari. He thanked his chief financial officer Wayne Markowitz for helping him orchestrate and consummate the partnership.
Joey Gabbay, chief executive officer of Bluestar, said, “Elie and I have been discussing this partnership for many years now and I’m pleased to see this deal has finally come to fruition. Together with Bluestar’s brand management and Elie Tahari’s design capabilities, we will create an extraordinary worldwide brand mission that will appeal to both the domestic and international consumer who has admired the Tahari collections for so many years.”
Gindi added that the company plans an extensive marketing and communications campaign that encompasses digital marketing, advertising and social media. “It is our vision to incorporate all the categories including women’s and men’s ready-to-wear, accessories, shoes, eyewear and home decor into one lifestyle brand and believe our efforts will bring continued success and growth in the coming years,” he said.
“We feel it’s a top-tier brand, world-renowned, and it’s a brand we can really get our hands around and grow digitally, internationally and through franchising. There’s a place for Tahari around the world in both retail and wholesale,” continued Gindi.
He noted that the Tahari and T Tahari lines will be licensed to another company within the next two weeks. “All the brands will flow through our offices. He [Elie] will have final creative on the Elie Tahari brand, and all the management will happen through the Bluestar infrastructure. He’s an incredible designer. As much input as he can give us, we’ll take,” said Gindi. “He brings a really special flavor to the brand and it’s really important that we stay close to that.”
As far as new categories, the denim piece is very important to the brand, as well as establishing a men’s wear presence, fragrances and intimate apparel. “We want to do the complete lifestyle for the Tahari brand in men’s,” said Gindi, who said Tahari already has a men’s suit license with the Levy Group. He also expects to roll out Elie Tahari men’s wear. “This brand for us will be a top-tier brand catering to men and women, and we’re going to have a children’s line. We’re going to expand into all the categories that they could have been in for many years,” he said.
“The focus internationally will be Elie Tahari and Tahari,” added Gindi.
Over the years Tahari became one of the most prominent labels in the bridge category, but has had a challenging time in recent years. Tahari held his first fashion show in 1977 and has been honored with the Brand Vision Award from Fashion Group International, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and Elie Tahari Day, when his brand turned 40.
The Elie Tahari brand includes rtw, shoes, accessories, eyewear and home decor and is sold in more than 40 countries, with more than 800 points of distribution.
Bluestar Alliance, established by Gabby and Gindi in 2006, owns, manages and markets a portfolio of consumer bands including Bebe, Kensie, Catherine Malandrino, Nanette Lepore, Joan Vass, Michael Bastian, English Laundry and Limited Too.