CHANGING HANDS:

LVMH Unloads Donna Karan International

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screen shot: DKNY.com

After a relatively brief period of intensive rumors, French fashion and beverage conglomerate LVMH has sold its Donna Karan International brand for$650 million to G-III Apparel Group, only marginally more than the $643 million it paid for the company in 2001.
The division had long been the subject of rumors, as the parent company had never been able to grow its two labels, the designer level Donna Karan New York and contemporary positioned DKNY, in any decisive way. Last year saw the departure of the company's namesake, designer Donna Karan, and the closure of the signature designer collection in favor of focusing on the more broadly distributed DKNY brand. The installation of acclaimed Public School designers Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chao to lead the label creatively was considered a bold move, but somewhat risky as the pair had made a splash in menswear but little relatively experience with women's apparel, especially in the highly commercial terrain that DKNY had always occupied. While LVMH has said it is happy with the results of the changes, others have reported a muted response to the new designs from customers. The two are still in the early stages of DKNY's revamp, having only shown two seasons for the label with the second, Fall 2016, just beginning to arrive in stores.
As for the buyer, G-III is one of America's most prominent apparel companies featuring a lengthy roster of owned, licensed and private label brands encompassing names ranging from Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Karl Lagerfeld to Jessica Simpson and Alyssa Milano. It often manufactures and distributes part of a brand's offerings, such as women’s sportswear, suits, dresses, performance wear, handbags, luggage and cold weather accessories for Calvin Klein under license, for example, while it owns outright brands like Vilebrequin and G.H.Bass and, now, Donna Karan and DKNY. It also operates retail stores for many of its labels, giving it a breadth of expertise that is well suited to the DKNY business as well as a market clout that could prove useful in growing the brand.
What plans are in store for Donna Karan's labels remain to be announced. It is expected that Osborne and Chao will remain at least through the closing of the sale sometime early next year. While the Donna Karan Collection remains suspended for now, it seems unlikely that G-III would be quick to revive it, as higher end designer apparel is somewhat outside the company's wheelhouse. In addition, LVMH leaders have long been rumored to be frustrated by designer Donna Karan's increasing attention to her personally owned lifestyle brand Urban Zen, which has already begun to appear in stores like Bergdorf Goodman as a replacement for the departed Donna Karan Collection. The Donna Karan Collection brand is not fully absent from the market with licensed home, hosiery, intimate apparel and fragrance collections ongoing, and items from the designer's final, Fall 2015 collection still available for purchase at DonnaKaran.com.
What is most unusual for LVMH is the selling of the division at all. The parent company is known for sticking by its owned designer brands until it finds the right creative approach to achieve commercial traction, often going through a succession of designers at brands like Céline, Loewe and even Givenchy over several years before hitting on a winning formula. This time, LVMH decided to walk away with little profit to show after 15 years, which may be either the exception that proves the rule or a signal of a new, less patient approach at one of the fashion industry's biggest players. At the very least, the sale now puts one of America's iconic fashion brands back in the hands of an American company, with a new, as yet unknown future ahead of it.

(WWD)


EXPANSION MODE:

Leading New York Boutique Kirna Zabête Is Multiplying

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Rendering and mood images via WWD

Enduring SoHo women's boutique Kirna Zabête has weathered all sorts of retail conditions the have felled lesser stores since it appeared in 1999, and is more than surviving —it's expanding. After buying out her business partner Sarah Easley's ownership stake earlier this year, now sole owner Beth Buccini is launching a temporary store for the next couple of months in East Hampton —not a terribly surprising development— and, more importantly a permanent satellite location not in the expected NYC area, but in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania on Philadelphia's main line.
While seasonal Hamptons stores are a time honored business opportunity for city retailers, opening in another city is a more daring move. Bringing her boutique to wealthy uptown shoppers who would be a safer strategy, but an expansion to another city gives Buccini the opportunity to bring Kirna Zabête's boundary pushing point of view to an affluent shopping area with less competition than one would have to fight in a designer-heavy market like New York. “I’ve been observing the fashion and I found women are hungry for new ideas and excited about fashion and they’re really underserved,” Buccini tells WWD. “I really went deep into the demographics in the area. There are so many universities and private schools all around, and really the only game in town is the mall.” Having moved her family to the area, the retailer is familiar with the market. The upcoming 32,000-square-foot store (pictured) will reflect the bold look of the SoHo mother ship and will open in a new shopping development aimed at affluent shoppers who can expect to see the store later this fall, opening with resort and holiday collections.

Kirna Zabête Expands With Two New Stores (WWD)


RIP:

Bill Cunningham, The World's Greatest Street Style Photographer Dies At 87

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Bill Cunningham photographs Rachel Roy's Spring 2012 collection during Fashion Week at Lincoln Center

Bill Cunningham, the street style photographer for The New York Times, passed away today at 87. Cunningham had recently suffered a stroke.
Cunningham could often be found at his favorite haunts, most prominently the intersection of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, intensely observing the crowd and picking out the most strikingly attired passersby to be featured in his long running collage of pictures in the Sunday Times Styles Section. Events like the Central Park Conservancy luncheon and the Gay Pride parade, which he just missed this year, were among his favorite events to revisit year after year. He was also known for an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion past and present, and often slyly pointed out when one designer's work mysteriously resembled that of another in the extensive seasonal runway round-ups he compiled for the pre-Condé Nast version of Details magazine during the 1980s. While he has inspired numerous blogs, Tumblrs and Instagram accounts, Cunningham has always been recognized as the originator, and few have come close to rivaling his sharp eyes for original style and spotting a trend. Then upcoming fashion weeks will be a bit less glamorous without him to pick out the most exciting dressers.

Bill Cunningham, Legendary Times Fashion Photographer, Dies at 87 By Jacob


CHAIN IN DANGER:

Scoop Closes In SoHo As New Troubles Emerge
UPDATED
All Scoop Stores Now Closing

SCOOP-SoHo
Scoop NYC, the fast growing retail chain that rode the contemporary designer explosion of the turn of the 21st Century to great success is facing some new challenges. WWD reports that the chain has closed its 10,000 square foot flagship in SoHo (pictured above) and is mulling the future of other branches —possibly that of the entire chain.
The retailer's ailment is not sales, apparently, but its rapid expansion during a time when prime locations have been scarce and renting only at top dollar rates. Margins at scoop are said to be in excess of 46% of sales and over $1,000 per square foot, enviable business levels by anyone's standards, but they are being eaten away by rents that are too high and stores that are too big, hence the closure of the chains largest and possibly most expensive one.
Started just 20 years ago by Stefanie Greenfield and Uzi Ben-Abraham, Scoop helped pioneer the upper contemporary/ designer boutique chain by mixing prestige designer labels like Missoni, Margiela and Derek Lam with resurgent premium denim brands and more casual contemporary fare, and presenting merchandise by lifestyle rather than by label. The billed the store as "The Ultimate Closet", and their concept won acclaim and lots of customers. Eventually, menswear was added in the same manner, and though the results in that category wound up looking fairly middle-of-the-road in terms of fashion, commercially it was a hit, offering side-by-side shopping for couples. Similarly merchandised chains like Intermix and Barneys Co-op also thrived alongside Scoop in its heyday, But Barneys has discontinued the Co-op division and converted its locations to more upscale, small Barneys boutiques, while the broader expansion of Intermix is now backed by Gap Inc. Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos. acquired Scoop in 2007, and is said to have ruled out a bankruptcy filing, though liquidation may not be off the table. The chain still has 15 stores left, mostly in New York City and Long Island, but also in key cities including Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, Chicago, Las Vegas and Atlanta but only with single units. Its most recently opened store is in Brookfield Place in the financial district. It sounds like we should expect to see a few more Scoop store closures in the coming months, but hopefully, the chain isn't ready to give up the ghost just yet.

UPDATE:
Or maybe it is.
Over the weekend, Scoop stores started running 10% Off storewide store closing sales in all remaining 15 locations with merchandise expected to hold out for 8 to 12 weeks. The aforementioned overhead costs have reportedly clobbered the chain out of viability, with with unrealistic double digit comp numbers required to ensure profitability against high rents on oversized stores. In other words, there is no feasible path forward for the chain. In New York City, the remaining Scoop locations are on Third Avenue between 73rd and 74th Streets, Brookfield Place, and separate men's and women's stores on Washington Street between 13th and 14th Streets in the Meatpacking District as well as East Hampton and Wheatley Plaza stores on Long Island.

Scoop Succumbs to Market Forces; All Stores Closing (WWD)


NEW YORK DESIGNER SHAKE-UP:

Francisco Costa & Italo Zucchelli Out At Calvin Klein As Raf Simons Rumors Swirl

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Courtesy Images by Danny Clinch for Calvin Klein

Perhaps his own women's line is not what Raf Simons has in the works after all. Maybe he's heading Stateside.
The revolving door of Europe's biggest designer brands has opened in New York today as the exits of both Francisco Costa and Italo Zucchelli (pictured left and right above), creative directors at Calvin Klein Collection for women and men respectively, have been announced. The company has indicated that all Calvin Klein products will be unified under a single creative director yet to be disclosed, while fashion insiders filled in the blank with Raf Simons' name, a rumor that has apparently been percolating recently. The new creative head will be announced "in due course” according to the company, which is in keeping with the belief that a non-compete clause in Raf Simons' former contract with Dior is delaying the completion of any transition until this summer.
While both Costa and Zucchelli have been credited with maintaining the fashion authority of the Calvin Klein brand after its purchase by PVH and the retirement of it's namesake, commercially, the Calvin Klein Collection business plummeted after Klein's retirement as the company turned its attention toward the newly introduced Calvin Klein White Label moderate line for profits and growth. The Collection lines remained beloved by the press, and Costa was a recipient of the CFDA award. The runway collections gained some traction in recent seasons as the parent company increased support for the neglected lines. Zucchelli's menswear has been embraced by avant-garde retailers like Opening Ceremony and Dover Street Market, and Costa's womenswear has found its way back into Bergdorf Goodman, but not all the way back to the prized, spacious in-store shop overlooking the Plaza  it commanded in its heyday through the 1990s. While Costa has had great success with red carpet dressing, he often dressed his stars in simpler gowns that recalled classic Calvin Klein styles like the sleek red tank gown Jennifer Lawrence wore at her first Oscar ceremony rather than his own more complex runway designs, causing a stylistic disconnect for the collection.
As for Simons, his success at the modernistic Jil Sander as well as his own influential men's label and balancing of ornate and minimalist looks at Dior make him a perfect choice to lead Calvin Klein —if it's true.
We will all have to wait a few months to find out for sure, but the prospect of a Simons led Calvin Klein is a promising idea for one of New York's greatest designer brands.

Francisco Costa, Italo Zucchelli to Exit Calvin Klein, Raf in Wings? (WWD)


NEW HORIZONS:

Is Raf Simons Finally Launching His Own Women's Collection?

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Image by Willy Vanderperre via WWD

Raf Simons' surprise exit from Christian Dior last year seemed to spark an unprecedented upheaval of Europe's luxury brands with designers leaving or being forced out of what seemed to be secure creative director positions. For Simons part, he was said to be leaving because he wanted to spend more time at home in Belgium and also wanted to focus on his own signature label, the one that brought him his initial fame and had continued uninterrupted even as the designer took on more high profile creative responsibilities first at Jil Sander and then Dior. What is curious about Simons' trajectory is that even as he established his bona fides as a premier women's designer at Sander and Dior, his own label has always been restricted to menswear —until now?
Pitti Uomo, the prestigious mens' trade show that begins its Spring 2017 edition in a couple of months in Florence, has announced that Simons will be given the coveted spotlight this season to present his Spring-Summer 2017 collection and well as a "Special Project". Though this is a men's show, its spotlight is often used as an opportunity to launch new projects including women's or other additional collections. Could that special project be the first official Raf Simons women's collection? It would seem to be the obvious next move for the designer. One of the rumored reasons for his departure from Dior —from a position that fashion watchers are still waiting to be filled— was a lack of autonomy over the highly compartmentalized brand. Though he was responsible for the marquee Haute Couture and Women's ready-to-wear and accessory collections, he had little to no authority over other aspects of the brand such as store design, cosmetics and the choice of celebrity spokesmodels. Most surprising was that instead of turning over Dior Homme to innovative men's designer Simons to create a more unified brand image, Dior decided instead to renew Dior Homme creative director Kris van Assche's contract. It's not that van Assche was failing, but it seemed curious to have one of menswear's most highly regarded designers under the Dior roof but to keep him restricted to women's collections.
Now that Simons has streamlined his professional life, it seems like the perfect time to fortify his own label's profile by finally entering the much larger and potentially more lucrative women's market under his own name with an eye on the female customers he has cultivated over the years at Sander and Dior. Is this the special project set for Pitti? So far no details have been released, and this is pure speculation on our part, but we can't be the only ones who are taking bets on when Raf Simons for women will inevitably be launched. The proverbial iron is still hot, so now would logically be the time to strike before it cools.

 

Raf Simons to Present at Pitti Uomo (WWD)


POSITION FILLED:

Bouchra Jarrar Is Your New Lanvin Designer

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Courtesy Image via WWD

As has been widely rumored, Paris based designer Bouchra Jarrar (pictured at right) has been named artistic director of women’s collections at Lanvin starting this Monday. Jarrar replaces Alber Elbaz whose departure last year stunned fans and customers and left his design staff not only heartbroken, but litigious, taking the storied house and its owner to court to protest the designers ouster. The first collection without Elbaz, shown last week, elicited scathing reviews, indicating that leaving the design direction to Elbaz's remaining staff was not a viable 'place holder' option for even one more season as has been done at houses like Dior which is currently between creative directors. For her part, Jarrar is a well-liked choice who seems qualified to help push Lanvin beyond the controversy of Elbaz's departure and reassure nervous retailers who have invested in the label and built loyal customer followings. After stints at Jean-Paul Gaultier, Balenciaga under both Josephus Thimister and Nicolas Ghesquiere, Jean-Louis Scherrer and Christian Lacroix, Jarrar started her own house in 2010 and has shown both ready-to-wear and haute couture collections as an official member of the Chamber Syndicale de la Haute Couture. It has not been confirmed that she will continue on with her own label as she concurrently designs for Lanvin, however she is reported to have taken on minority investment for it as recently as last year. Her own company is relatively small compared to Lanvin, however, and she will presumably have to contend with the same challenges that faced Elbaz and led to the conflict that ended in his dismissal, namely the lack of company owned stores to even out the brand's balance between wholesale and retail as well as the widely reported lack of funding that has hindered Lanvin's ability to compete with bigger labels in the most profitable handbag and accessory categories. She will, however, be able to restore some good will for the brand and confidence that it will not fall back into the obscurity from whence it emerged when Elbaz became its creative director. “Joining Lanvin satisfies my desire to create and express myself in a space of larger expression,” she says as part of today's announcement, and all eyes will be on her when she shows her first collection this fall for Spring 2017.

 

Lanvin Confirms Bouchra Jarrar as New Women’s Designer (WWD)


FASHION SHOW FRACAS

Burberry Will Shift To Buy-Now Runway Shows
UPDATED: Tom Ford Follows Suit

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Burberry's Fall/Winter 2016 Runway Show held in London last month

As as public fascination for the once industry-only runway shows of Fashion Weeks around the world, the entire runway show system is being upended, Designers are now questioning the wisdom of presenting their collections six months ahead of the time when they will be available for customers to purchase, and several designers have already announced that the collections they present at New York Fashion Week for when next week will be composed of merchandise to be immediately available. So far, the biggest luxury names have mused about possible changes, none have pulled the trigger on radically altering their presentation concepts —until today. Burberry's chief creative and executive officer Christopher Bailey has announced that starting this September, the label's runway shows will present only merchandise available immediately after the conclusion of the runway show. Only two shows will be presented per year mixing both men's and women's collections, eliminating separate men's shows of which the one held a few weeks ago at London Fashion Week Men's (pictured above) will have been the company's last.
Burberry has been dynamic in recent months when it comes to taking a hard look at how it does business and communicates to customers. Last year, the brand made the decision to consolidate its various diffusion labels under a singular Burberry Brand, merging both its luxury Prorsum and more accessible London and Brit collections. It's a move that eliminates the question of what is the "real" label for customers and puts it more in line with international mega-brands like Gucci or Louis Vuitton which have always eschewed sub-brands.
How this will affect other luxury level designers remains to be seen, but the restlessness in the crowded runway show schedule is clear with major designers increasingly using their clout to show their collections when they see fit. Hedi Slimane has announced that both the men's and part of the women's Fall 2016 Saint Laurent would be held next Wednesday, February 10th in Los Angeles where he lives and maintains his studio rather than in Paris, the home of one of France's most revered fashion maisons. Tom Ford, for his part has often moved his shows around to suit his own convenience, showing in different fashion capitals and even moving his show to Oscar Weekend in Los Angeles a year ago to accommodate the shooting schedule for his upcoming movie. Last season, he abandoned the runway altogether in favor of a music video starring Lady Gaga and a Soul Train line of dancing models, and for Fall 2016, he has announced that he will show both men's and women's lines to buyers and press in intimate presentations in New York.
So no livestream, then?
The longtime paradigm of multiple Fashion Weeks in various international cities is now entering a stage of flux that could change the way fashion is presented everywhere. Hang on. This is just the beginning.

UPDATE:
Tom Ford has announced in Burberry's wake that he too would be showing Fall 2016 Collections in September of this year. He tells WWD, “Our customers today want a collection that is immediately available. Fashion shows and the traditional fashion calendar, as we know them, no longer work in the way that they once did. We spend an enormous amount of money and energy to stage an event that creates excitement too far in advance of when the collection is available to the consumer."

Burberry’s Bold Move: To Make Shows Direct to Consumer, Tom Ford Switches Show to Consumer Schedule (WWD)


MEN'S FASHION WEEK SNAPSHOT:

Duckie Brown Pares Down

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They weren't kidding when they called it "Just A Little Duckie".
Steven Cox and Daniel Silver gave the menswear crowd a jolt yesterday morning with their surprising Duckie Brown show at NYFW Men's which lasted for exactly six looks. That's the entire collection pictured above.
What did it all mean? 
It seems clear that the duo was presenting a 'Back to Basics' moment. The label has had its ups and downs over the past few years with a surprise hit shoe collaboration with Florsheim that put the brand in front of en exponentially larger customer base than it had ever seen before. A follow-up apparel line with Perry Ellis fizzled, however, with nothing of the collaboration ever seeing production. The designers have been candid lately about the struggles of being independent designers once the lucrative collaborations end, and their response has been to pare down their collection to the most basic pieces. As the fashion world has finally caught up with Duckie Brown's signature explorations in androgyny, Cox and Silver have turned to the core items of men's clothing. Blazers, pants, shirts and coats all reshaped with Duckie Brown proportions. Sometimes, less really is more, especially when it's time to start again from scratch.


COURSE CORRECTION BLOODBATH:

Macy's Is Closing 40 Stores & Planning Off-Price Outlets Inside Existing Stores

MacysHSIs it really such a big deal to close 40 stores if you have 773 of them?
Maybe not. After all, it's less than 10% of the Macy's store count, but it just goes to show that the kind of course correction that might be seen as relatively innocuous for another company becomes an event of a completely different scale when you are the 800 (or possibly 773) pound gorilla of the department store industry.
In fact, 40 stores is substantially bigger than most of the regional chains that have been absorbed over the years by what is now known as Macy's Inc. The mega-chain didn't get that big organically. It is the result of individual acquisitions like the Bamburger's chain once well expanded through the Mid-Atlantic region, but more importantly mergers with larger consolidated retailers that operated many individual nameplates. The current chain includes the remnants of former retail giants Allied Stores, Federated Department Stores and May Company which have ultimately put Macy's in every major market in America.
One could argue that despite pruning its fleet less dramatically over the years, those mergers and acquisitions have still left Macy's over-stored. In many cases acquired stores in the same mall as an existing location have been converted to separate Home or Menswear units and in at least one case, Tyson's Corner Virginia, there are two full Macy's stores literally across the street from each other in competing malls. Both of those stores are remaining open, a testament to the strength of that particular market where elsewhere it would be clearly redundant.
Three to four sales jobs will be cut from each of Macy's existing stores —which doesn't do much to respond to the recurring complaint that it is hard to find a salesperson in Macy's. That will still be a whopping loss of about 3,000 jobs. In addition only about 30% of retiring or voluntarily departing senior executives will be replaced, and about 600 back office jobs will be eliminated with 450 of those workers being laid off permanently rather than reassigned within the company. The total job loss is expected to be about 3,500 positions.
All of this is a response to a 4.7% decide in sales over the past few months which was higher than predicted. It is almost certain that the extremely unseasonably warm weather in most of the United States over the Fall season has contributed to the drop.
“In light of our disappointing 2015 sales and earnings performance, we are making adjustments to become more efficient and productive in our operations," says Macy's Chairman and CEO Terry J. Lundgren in a press release issued yesterday outlining the chain's strategy, "Moreover, we believe we can operate more effectively with an organization that is flatter and more agile so we can pursue growth and regain market share in our core Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s omnichannel businesses faster and with more intensity."
It's not all grim news, however. Three new Macy's stores and Two Bloomingdale's branches are set to open by Fall 2018, but more interestingly, the Macy's Backstage format, a budding off-price chain meant to compete with Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off-5th and the like, is set to grow with 50 new units, most of which will be opening within existing Macy's stores rather than as freestanding entities.
We remind ourselves that 50 stores is only a fraction of the 733 stores that will remain after the store culling, but it means that an off-price or clearance department will become a permanent fixture in some of the chain's full-line stores. What will this be like, and how will it affect the chain's full-price selling and its typically heavy promotional activity? Also unknown is how the chain's key vendors will feel about having to compete with discounted merchandise in the same store that normally would have been diverted to other channels after seasonal clearance sales. That will be very interesting to see unfold as, traditionally, most other chains have chosen to at least keep their outlet stores in separate buildings, though they have been losing in on their full-line mothership locations in recent years. We are reminded that Filene's Basement began literally in the basement of the flagship Filene's department store in Downtown Boston. Though it was eventually spun off into a separate company, it ultimately lasted longer than its namesake progenitor. Do we dare draw comparisons?

Macy’s, Inc. Outlines Cost Efficiency Initiatives and Lists Store Locations to Be Closed (Press Release)