What Got The New President Of Saks Fifth Avenue Fired After 15 Months?

Marc-metrickSaks Fifth Avenue surprised the fashion and retailing industry yesterday afternoon by announcing that its new, high-profile president, Marigay McKee, had left the company and would be replaced by Marc Metrick (pictured right), executive vice president and chief administrative officer of the Hudson’s Bay Co. A year and a half ago, hiring McKee's away from Harrod's in London was considered a coup for Saks which had just been acquired by HBC. She was unafraid of making herself the face of the retailer, and enthusiastically vocal about her plans to upgrade the chain's stores with a higher luxury quotient to better compete with rival Neiman Marcus —particularly the Fifth Avenue flagship, which seems to be continually in a state of reconfiguration and renovation. McKee seemed almost like a throwback to flamboyant merchant princes like Marvin Traub of Bloomingdale's or Stanley Marcus who ran their companies with a hefty dose of dazzle dazzle.
So why did HBC's glittery new hire go sour so quickly? In today's post-mortem in WWD, David Moin seems to suggest that it was not her professional abilities but her management style that got her canned. According to unnamed sources, McKee stepped on many toes which led to the departure of too many valued longtime Saks personnel including most prominently chief merchant Jennifer De Winter who recently decamped to Tiffany. McKee is described as a not a "good fit" for the store, and as someone whose office frequently saw people leaving in tears after meetings with her. This, apparently, made it difficult to attract new talent to replace fleeing, formerly stalwart personnel who became attractive to other companies, a state of affairs that should be corrected with her departure as searches for several executive positions are under way.
And yet, it's hard to imagine that it was only management style that caused her dismissal. There are plenty of celebrated fashion and retailing executives whose management antics make industry insiders shudder. Was there something more behind McKee's firing? HBC executives stress that the extravagant $250 million re-imagining of the Fifth Avenue flagship store would proceed as planned, although McKee's vision included radically reconfiguring several floors including creating two-level in-store boutiques for luxury labels that would rise from the main floor to the second. A dramatic renovation like that including other plans for the building would likely cost quite a bit more than $250 million in New York City and put the store in a state of construction for years at a time. While Saks has real problems appropriately configuring its space, particularly on its over-packed main floor, that solution might have been overly costly even for HBC which is committed to investing in the store's redesign. McKee's other initiative was to cull the store's vast matrix of vendors and cut loose the brands that weren't making enough profit for the store, but a year into McKee's tenure saw Saks's flagship packed with merchandise, with every possible nook and cranny of the selling floors fitted with a rack for full-priced goods. For a store supposedly devoted to paring down its brands, it looked more like they were buying every possible label they could and throwing them on the floor to see what stuck with customers, as opposed to the strategy of a seasoned merchant carefully crafting an upgraded fashion image. Contrary to increasing the luxury quotient, it made Saks feel more like a moderate department store full of racks —not the best way to compete for customers looking for the most upscale shopping experience.
As for her replacement, Marc Metrick was a 15-year veteran of Saks before he came to HBC three years ago, so he comes with the longtime understanding of the store and its culture that McKee lacked. He is not, however, a merchant, but he looks exactly like the kind of person who is often brought in to steady a ship that has been rocked a bit too hard. So HBC's grand plans to strengthen Saks against its rivals has hit a delay, and the clock is ticking. While Bergdorf Goodman has always been the main store Saks vies with for customers in New York City, its two biggest competitors nationwide, Nordstrom and Bergdorf sibling Neiman's, are headed to Manhattan within the next few years. By then, Saks will have had its second store in the borough open at Brookfield Place in the Financial District. What it needs right now is the right merchant to get it ready for the influx of competition.

Marc Metrick In, Marigay McKee Out at Saks By David Moin (WWD)


American Apparel Has Really Fired Dov Charney For Good This Time

DovCharneyRemember last June when the board of American Apparel fired its founder and CEO Dov Charney?
And then he got some backers and bought up even more stock than he already owned, and somehow got to stay on as a consultant? And then, after all the scandalous disclosures of information about Charney, things seemed to settle down.
Well, Happy Chanukah, Dov! You're fired for good now.

According to WWD, and various reports popping up in the media yesterday evening, Charney has been officially fired for cause, and, to emphasize that fact, a new CEO has been hired to replace him permanently. Paula Schneider, who has held executive positions at major companies like Warnaco, BCBG Max Azria and Laundry by Shelli Segal will be taking over the CEO position on January 5th. WWD's report hints that a deal to allow Charney to have some sort of official, ongoing role within American Apparel may have been under discussion as recently as a few weeks ago, but it apparently went sour leading the company's board to revert back to their original plan which was to get rid of him entirely.

Is it all over for Dov? Probably, but even fired, he is still American Apparel's largest shareholder, and his generally combative nature regarding this issue suggests that he can be expected to be something of a thorn in the board's side at the very least for some time to come. Stay tuned to see how this continues to play out.

Dov Charney's Firing Could Spur Lawsuits (WWD)
SCANDAL ROUND-UP: American Apparel Gains Stability Via Hedge Fund -Charney's Future In Question
See all American Apparel coverage HERE


Frida Giannini Is Leaving Gucci


Well, from the outside, at least, this is somewhat unexpected news.
Gucci creative director Frida Giannini is leaving the celebrated Italian brand after she shows the label's Fall 2015 collections. She will be accompanied in her departure by Gucci's CEO Patrizio di Marco who is also her partner in life and with whom she shares a daughter.

Giannini can be credited with stabilizing the Gucci brand after the departure of Tom Ford who was in great part responsible for revitalizing the formerly moribund label and catapulting it into fadhion's forefront during the 1990s. Originally tapped as the label's creative director for accessories, she was part of a triumvirate of designers along with Alesssandra Facchinetti for women's apparel and John Ray for men's who were meant to design for the brand. The scheme appeared to be created to send a message to Ford, who had become a superstar himself through his re-imagining of Gucci, that the brand was bigger than any single creative director working for it.
Well, the plan didn't work, and after a few collections of fragmented brand image, Giannini eventually assumed design control of all Gucci product lines and began to implement her direction including new store designs, forging her own relationships with celebrities and starring in The Director,  a documentary about her life and work that came out last year.

So now that she is well settled in and things seem to be running smoothly, why are she and di Marco up and leaving or being asked to move on? Fashion is cyclical, and while business is challenging in the burgeoning Chinese market at the moment, it is also up in key markets like the U.S. —still the world's largest luxury market. Gucci is certainly not experieincing the kind of decline that would cause the team to be fired, but flat performance may seem almost as bad to Gucci's less forgiving corporate owners, especially when smaller less fully expanded brands like Bottega Veneta and Yves Saint Laurent are growing at a faster rate. Giannini and di Marco are not talking about future plans, and probably won't until well after the Fall collections are shown, but their leaving as a team sends speculation that their futures may lie in their own venture. Despite possible dissatisfaction in them from an unforgiving employer, Gianini is now of a stature that would qualify her to start her own label if she so chooses.

The question they leave, aside from who will replace Giannini (diMarco's successor, Marco Bizzarri, chief executive of parent company Kering's luxury couture and leather goods division, has already been named), is can a designer still maintain a long term tenure with a luxury brand that he or she does not own or share a name with? Is Karl Lagerfeld, who has had a decades-long stint at Chanel and an even longer, concurrent one at Fendi, now the anomaly rather than the role model? Fashion's revolving door of designers seems to be spinning at an ever more rapid pace as seemingly solid partnerships like Nicolas Ghesquiere's at Balenciaga seem to dissolve ever more frequently with little advance notice. Is any designer secure at any brand if they don't own it themselves? The expected names of up-and-coming young designers are already being bandied about. Joseph Altuzarra is mentioned in WWD's coverage and already enjoys some backing from Kering. Another name speculators turn to is Riccardo Tisci, who has successfully revamped Givenchy and has been influential in both men's and women's fashion design as well as garnered a strong celebrity and retail following. He is about to unveil a new showplace for the brand on Madison Avenue as his profile has steadily been rising in recent years. Now that he has achieved critical and commercial success at Givenchy is he now ready to jump ship? Will Kering and Givenchy parent LVMH battle over Tisci's contract, re-igniting a longtime Pinault vs. Arnault rivalry between the two luxury conglomerates? Maybe Kering has its eyes focused on someone else entirely. It's worth noting that Gianini was an unknown designer when she assumed her big job only about ten years ago. Perhaps Gucci will find an in-house successor and avoid the kind of job jumping industry ripple effects that just happened when Peter Copping left Nina Ricci for Oscar de la Renta. After all, Gucci's track record seems to be in creating design stars rather than importing them from other brands. There's bound to be more coming from this story, so stay tuned.

Frida Giannini, Patrizio di Marco Leaving Gucci (WWD)


Maison Martin Margiela Taps John Galliano

Johngalliano-patrickDemarchelier-WWDHere is what fashion folks will be talking about today:
Maison Martin Margiela, the label founded by an all but invisible designer has tapped John Galliano, one of the most flamboyant figures in the fashion world, to take over as creative director. There have been rumors of just such a deal over the past few weeks which have been denied by Renzo Rosso whose Only The Brave S.R.L. controls the Margiela label. “Margiela is ready for a new charismatic creative soul,” Rosso said in a statement. “John Galliano is one of the greatest, undisputed talents of all time — a unique, exceptional couturier for a maison that always challenged and innovated the world of fashion.

There will inevitably be discussion over whether the public is ready for the return of a designer who flamed out spectacularly in 2011 when he was captured spewing offensive and anti-semitic statements in an obviously drug and alcohol-induced stupor and lost his high-profile jobs at both Christian Dior and the label that bears his own name. For his part, Galliano has repeatedly expressed remorse, attended to his substance abuse issues in the time since and suffered little backlash when he assisted Oscar de la Renta as a guest designer for the Spring 2014 collection.

The other big question is how Galliano's famously lush and fantastical fashion visions will square with the long established Margiela aesthetic which can veer toward the surrealistic and occasionally disturbing but in a cooler, more cerebral way. A large and lucrative portion of the label's output has consisted of minimalistic, subdued sportswear pieces in muted colors which would seem to be at odds with Galliano's glamorous flights of fancy. Both designers do share a penchant for vintage styles. Galliano regularly paid tribute to Dior's archives in his collections there, and Margiela regularly offers faithful "reproductions" of vintage items. In fact, one of the brand's signature items is a version of a vintage German Army Trainer that continues to be re-interpreted in numerous colors and materials every season.

This will be the first time that the house has actually identified a creative director besides its Belgian-born namesake whose profile was kept so low that his main label has always been completely blank with subsidiary collections identified only by numbered codes. When Margiela himself left the label to retire in even more obscurity, many didn't realized that it had happened until months and even years afterward, so having an identifiable designer behind the house who will presumably be available to talk about the collections and promote them personally will be a sea change from having one who refused to be photographed and communicated with the public and only through impersonal and occasionally bewildering press missives. We will only have to wait a few months to see what Galliano has in mind for the Margiela brand. His first collections are expected to be shown during Haute Couture Week in Paris in January.

John Galliano Joins Maison Martin Margiela (WWD)


Zac Posen To Direct
Brooks Brothers Women's Design

Zac-posen-CourtesyIf you can't help thinking of Brooks Brothers as a great men's store, then that may change in a few years. The venerable retailer has announced that Zac Posen (pictured at left) will become the creative director for the retailer's main women's apparel and accessory collections. “We want to better ourselves and have another point of view,” Brooks Brothers' chairman and chief executive officer Claudio Del Vecchio tells WWD. “We already have a team in place, so he’s not going to be a designer, but a creative director. He’s someone we trust and admire for what he does, and he can add to what we’re already doing.” Brooks Brothers has been upgrading and refining its women's offerings over the past few years, and the appointment will help bring attention as well as a new fashion image to a part of the company that has traditionally been overshadowed by its iconic male counterpart. Posen's responsibilities will be restricted to the main label women's lines and won't affect either the younger Red Fleece collection or the Black Fleece collection which will remain the purview of designer Thom Browne. The first collections under Posen's direction won't appear until Spring 2016, giving the designer plenty of time to adapt his own glamorous point of view to Brooks Brothers' traditional but evolving image. Posen will continue to design his own collection as well as other projects such as participating as a judge on "Project Runway" and said he was “honored and excited to be embarking on this incredible opportunity to take the Brooks Brothers women’s brand into the future while respecting its deep, rich American heritage as an institutional company.”

Brooks Bros. Taps Zac Posen to Oversee Women's (WWD)


Marissa Webb To Take Design Reins At Banana Republic

MarissaWebOfficialIn another story of a designer doing double duty, Gap Inc. announced today that contemporary designer Marissa Webb (pictured left) would be taking over as Creative Director and Executive Vice President of Design for Banana Republic later this month. Webb is best known for her own eponymous sportswear collection which she launched in 2012 after a long stint at J.Crew. The designer will be responsible for all product categories at Banana Republic including Women’s, Men’s, and Accessories, but will not have to abandon her own label to do so. In fact, parent company Gap Inc. will be investing in the Marissa Webb label as well as advising the designer in developing her own brand. Launched at Barneys, the designer sells to about 30 stores around the world including the Gap-owned Intermix. Webb takes over creative responsibilities from Simon Kneen, who left Banana Republic last October. Her first collections for the chain should be appearing in stores for Summer 2015.

Gap Inc. Announces Marissa Webb as Creative Director and Executive Vice President of Design for Banana Republic (Press Release)


Jeremy Scott Is
The New Moschino Designer

JeremyScottCourtesyIt wouldn't be a fashion season if some prominent brand didn't make a high profile creative switch. Next season it will be the Italian label Moschino which, in an inspired but unexpected move, has tapped American designer Jeremy Scott as its new creative director. The label's founding namesake designer, Franco Moschino, made a reputation for himself as fashion's court jester of sorts, regularly showing collections full of visual puns and emblazoning otherwise classic items with snarky and sometimes subversive phrases that frequently poked fun at his willing audiences. Scott, who started his label during the 1990s, is known for a similar irreverence having presented exaggerated, cartoonlike collections inspired by The Flintstones and Muppets. His biggest commercial success has been a long running collaboration with Adidas Originals that, among other things added wings to a classic hi-top basketball shoe in one of his signature styles. Though the new job will have Scott working in a more expensive price range with tougher commercial demands than his own collection, he seems like a natural fit to carry on the Moschino label's cheeky attitude. 

Outgoing creative director Rosella Jardini's most recent runway show was also a 30th Anniversary extravaganza which was live-streamed online and featured some of the label's most famous vintage looks on Franco Moschino's favorite models like Pat Cleveland and Gisele Zelauy as disco diva Gloria Gaynor sang onstage. It is not known, however, whether  Jadini knew that this would be her swan song for Moschino. After the designer's death, the prospects of the label surviving when it was so closely tied to its namesake's particular sense of humor looked pretty slim. Jardini is credited with defying most expectations and keeping the company alive and ultimately thriving by staying in the background, downplaying the jokes and refocusing on solid ready-to-wear with lighter touches of Moschino's signatures that garnered a strong commercial following. Though Moschino's Madison Avenue boutique closed shortly after the designer's death, a new one opened a few years ago in the Meatpacking District proving the label's endurance. It would be one of the industry's cruel but not uncommon ironies that Jardini may have learned of the personnel change along with the rest of the industry while she was representing the company at a party celebrating Moschino's anniversary at Chicago's Ikram. At any rate, next season will bring new attention and scrutiny to Moschino as the industry is again poised to see if a new designer can inject some more excitement into a veteran label.

Moschino Names Jeremy Scott Creative Director (WWD)
Moschino (Official Site)
Jeremy Scott (Official Site) 


Burberry's CEO Jumps To Apple Retail

AhrendtsToday's intriguing behind-the-scenes news has Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts stepping down next year to join Apple as Senoir Vice President of Retail and Online Stores. Ahrendts duties at Burberry will be assumed by the brand's chief creative officer Christopher Bailey, making him the rare luxury brand designer who is also its CEO. The long lead time indicates that her departure from Burberry is amicable.

Ahrendts fills the position that has been vacant for a while after last year's brief tenure of John Browett, whose stewardship of Apple's retail division was marked by cost-cutting, hiring freezes and an intense focus on profit margins that threatened the stores' renowned service levels and rankled longtime store managers. Ahrendts' deep background in luxury fashion and retailing should give her a strong sense of customer service. She is not the only high profile hire that Apple has made from the fashion world recently. In July, Apple hired Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve as Vice President of Special Projects, which tells us that not only does Apple see itself in the same category as international luxury brands, but fashion people on the other side see it the same way as well.

Apple hires Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts to lead retail efforts (AppleInsider)