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Giorgio Armani announces round of layoffs

In the category of things you don't see everyday, Giorgio Armani, one of the world's most recognizable names in luxury fashion, has announced that they will have a large round of layoffs.

The company, which is undergoing a new retail strategy, will be laying off 110 employees out of a total of 180 at their Giorgio Armani Operations plant in Settimo Torinese. The factory specializes in men's jackets and coats.

“For us, this decision is not acceptable and we will definitely work to limit the layoffs,” said Simona Lancellotti, the representative of the Filctem CGIL trade union, in a statement.

Earlier this year, Giorgio Armani announced they will be consolidating their umbrella of brands, and Armani Jeans and Armani Collezioni would cease operations, leaving Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani and Armani Exchange as their three remaining brands. Their business overhaul will be effective as of the spring 2018 season.

Giorgio Armani laying off factory employees

Globally, Armani has 9,068 employees. Armani joins a growing list of luxury brands who have decided to streamline and consolidate their brands including Ralph Lauren, Paul Smith, Burberry and Marc Jacobs.

Despite the store closures, Giorgio Armani is still one of the most profitable luxury brands in the world.

In a January article on Reuters.com, Armani was quoted saying the brand had "a lot of cash," but didn't further elaborate. In 2015, the company posted revenues of 2.65 billion euros. Despite the 5 percent decline in revenues they saw in 2016, they are far from hurting, and consolidating will also help save the company money.

photo: via Bloomingdales.com
Bebe shuttering all stores, incurring 20 million dollar impairment charge

Bebe Stores Inc. has confirmed in a Securities & Exchange Commissions filing that it will close all of its stores next month. Their shares were down 10 percent this morning during trading.

Shares were trading at three dollars and 38 cents for a market capitalization of 27.27 million dollars.

While the company has been very secretive about its restructuring plan and approach to their brick-and-mortar stores, all the signs were flying high for a mass round of store closures. Layoff notifications were filed in individual states, and the California Employment Development Department was warned of 700 cuts at various stores throughout the state.

The company struck a deal this week with Great American Group LLC and Tiger Capital Group LLC to begin selling furniture and store equipment.

The filing also stated that Bebe will incur a 20 million dollar impairment charge.

Originally the retailer planned to close 21 stores, but in the end, shuttering all brick-and-mortar proved more economically feasible.

Bebe joins many other American retailers, including Macy's and Payless, who are in the spring of discontent for store closures. The retail bubble appears to be bursting as brick-and-mortar stores are closing left and right as consumer habits switch more to online and mobile commerce. The days of actually going out to shop are dying.

photo: via Bebe Facebook page

Invertex, an Israeli fashion-tech company that delivers measure-to-fit footwear solutions, has announced the closing of 2 million dollars of seed funding.

The round was led by Jerusalem-based equity crowdfunding VC OurCrowd through its OurCrowd First early stage fund. Permoda, an international leading retail and fashion group, also participated in the round, along with prominent angel investors.

"We are thrilled to be backed by a renowned lead investor such as OurCrowd First, Israel's most active early stage venture fund," said Invertex CEO David Bleicher. "Their investment validates our progress to date and provides us with the required financial strength to accelerate our commercialization efforts, focused on the US Footwear market."

OurCrowd First General partner, Eduardo Shoval, a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of seven startups, has joined the Invertex board. OurCrowd First was named Israel's most active early-stage fund for the past two years with 19 hi-tech portfolio investments.

"Invertex was built on the foundation of deep-technology and strong intellectual-property, precisely the ingredients we seek in the companies we invest in," said Shoval. "David and his team continue to demonstrate outstanding execution and we are thrilled to join the company and accelerate its go to market phase."

Invertex combines 3D-digitization with learning technologies to deliver tailored solutions for in store, home and online audiences. This helps lower the rate of returns, thus leaving customers more satisfied and companies less worried about losing money from returns. It's a win-win for everybody.

Rue 21 closing hundreds of stores

Retail's spring of discontent continues, with another company announcing a round of store closures. Rue 21, the trendy teen retailer, has confirmed via their Facebook page they will be closing hundreds of stores amid lender talks. Around 400 stores are expected to close, with 14 having already gone dark.

“As part of our ongoing business transformation into a more cost-efficient operator, we are closing unprofitable stores across our fleet in order to focus on our many hundreds of highly profitable locations,” the spokeswoman for the company said to WWD.

Rue 21 operates around 1200 stores in 48 states.

Rue 21's financial state is less than favorable, and store closures were a clear reaction to that. This decision comes two weeks after they entered into forbearance agreements with lenders to stave off a default. It is unknown at this time whether or not an extension is being considered.

Without further forbearance, Rue 21 might be forced to enter bankruptcy.

The company previously entered bankruptcy in 2002 when it was under the name Pennsylvania Fashion's Inc. In 2003, they emerged under the name Rue 21 and went public a year after that. In 2013, Rue 21 was acquired by Apax Partners for 1.1 billion dollars.

Rue 21's biggest problem is that it has lost ground to competitors like H&M, Forever 21 and Zara. As teens opt for these easily affordable fast-fashion brands, companies like Rue 21 are struggling to keep up. Like other brands once popular among teens, such as Wet Seal, Rue 21's moment of economic crisis has struck. As for whether or not it can overcome its economic strife, we will just have to watch and see.

photo: via Rue 21 Facebook

With the four-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster approaching in less than a week, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (Alliance) reported at a press conference last week that 72 percent of repairs have been finished and that 71 factories have completed their Corrective Action Plans (CAPs).

“72 percent of all required repairs across active Alliance factories have been completed—and this includes 64 percent of all high priority repairs,” stated Jim Moriarty, the Alliance's director. “We continue to maintain a no-tolerance policy for factories that fail to prioritise safety,” he stressed, adding that to date, a total of 142 factories affiliated with the Alliance had to be suspended due to inadequate progress on remediation - all of which are listed on the Alliance' website together with the exact reason for suspension.

About 64 percent of the repairs carried out were of the highest or high priority including critical items like structural retrofitting of columns and fire door installations. The number of factories that has completed their CAPs is expected to double in the next few months. After this first step, all factories have to undergo further steps toward improving workplace safety.

Part of the effort is also to train and re-train all employees, regardless of their role, as well as third party providers and to change their mindset from saving property (and merchandise) in case of an emergency to saving lives.

“We have also trained approximately 25,000 security guards to play a leadership role in protecting life—not property—should a building evacuation be necessary as a result of a fire or earthquake,” confirmed Moriarty. “We have also initiated a new training program for third party security guard companies. [They] especially provide security guard needs to garment factories. So far we have trained 17 well renowned security guard companies.”

Moriarty also pointed to the importance of the confidential helpline and the factories' safety committees, which currently number 140: “We consider the development and training of these committees tremendously important, as they will ensure that workers have a voice on safety within their factories long after the Alliance sun sets.”

Carlyle Group takes full control of Twinset

US private equity group Carlyle Group has strengthened its position in Italian fashion brand Twinset by buying the remaining 10 percent stake from founder Simona Barbieri, to increase its stake from 90 percent to 100 percent.

The Carlyle Group sees Twinset as a “key investment” in the European fashion and apparel sector, in 2012 it bought 72 percent of the Italian fashion label, and went on to raise its stake to 90 percent in 2015.

The affordable luxury label will sit alongside the Golden Goose Deluxe Brand and Hunkemoller, following the previous investment in Moncler.

Following the exit from shareholding, founder Barbieri will also step down from her roles of creative director and director of the company, a press statement from Twinset confirmed.

"We are grateful for the work done by Simona Barbieri, who is a talented designer with a very distinctive vision and I wish her all the best for the future,” said Alessandro Varisco, Twinset's chief executive officer. “In a challenging environment, Twinset continues to perform well and we are strongly committed to further enhance the brand’s values, product offering and boost global presence, leveraging Carlyle’s high industry expertise and strong international network.”

Marco De Benedetti, managing director and co-head at Carlyle Europe Partners, added: "I would like to thank Simona Barbieri for our creative collaboration and the objectives achieved together in these years.

“Carlyle strongly believes in Twinset’s potential and I am convinced that the management team will continue to develop the brand’s international positioning and grow the business successfully.”

Twinset was founded in 1990 as an accessible luxury womenswear that specialised in knitwear. The Italian market accounted for approximately 64 percent of turnover in 2015, while the retail channel made up 34 percent. At the end of 2015, Twinset had a direct sales network of 67 shops, of which 45 were in Italy and 22 abroad in Germany, France, Spain, Belgium and Russia.

Image: Twinset website

After being purchased by Mike Ashley, Agent Provocateur seems to be struggling in the U.S. The lingerie brand has officially filed for bankruptcy protection recently.

In New York, Agent Provocateur filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as reported by WWD. Over a month ago, the company was purchased by marketing and fashion company Four Holdings under Ashley’s ownership. The purchase was meant to keep the brand’s retail stores afloat and to help continue operations in the U.S. However, it seems that due to poor business, Agent Provocateur has run out of options. “Terminations are imminent at a couple of these locations; in fact, one landlord is about to evict one of the debtors from a prime location,” Brooks told the publication. Due to these inconveniences, the British-based brand has turned to bankruptcy.

Just recently, FashionUnited reported that the company announced it will shutter all of its Australian stores as well. Currently, the company’s status in both Australia and the U.S. are not up to par. According to court documents, the brand’s liabilities in the U.S. fall between 10 and 50 million dollars. Assets are estimated at approximately 1 and 10 million according to WWD. While the U.S. arm is headed towards its bankruptcy filing, it’s not yet determined what the future of the company will be.

Puma says Forever 21 Fenty copycat designs endanger business

London - Sportswear label Puma is continuing its battle against Forever 21, as the label fears its copying of Rihanna's famed shoe designs for Puma are a threat to its business.

Forever 21 previously launched its own versions of Puma x Fenty by Rihanna Creeper sneakers, slide sandals with fur and slide sandals with a knotted satin bow, which are said to be nearly exact copies of the original designs made by Rihanna for her line with Puma. The sportswear brand took legal action against Forever 21 earlier this month and launched a copyright infringement lawsuit, as well as a design patent and trade dress.

Puma states Forever 21 copycat Fenty shoes designs are harmoi

Puma also requested a temporary restraining order against Forever 21 to cease all sales of its shoe designs, but a Californian federal judge ruled against Puma last week, stating the sportswear brand failed to show Forever 21 posed an immediate threat to its business. The judge stated that Puma failed to take legal action against Forever 21 immediately, even though it claimed to have known about its alleged shoe copies for sometime, thereby creating its own business "crisis" by applying for a temporary restraining order the day before its latest Creeper design launch.

However Puma is set to fight against the judge's ruling and in a Monday court filing stated that a "serial infringer" like Forever 21 was not easy to keep track off. The sportswear label maintained that it took legal action against the fast-fashion retailer within two weeks of learning of the extent of its copied shoe designs. “Puma intentionally produces a limited quantity of each Fenty shoe to ensure that the Fenty shoes maintain a reputation of an exclusive, luxury brand shoe. Puma’s marketing and production strategies also create desirability not only for the Fenty brand shoes but for the Puma brand as a whole,” Puma argued in its court filing according to WWD.

“When the Fenty shoes are associated with a cheap mass market product they are no longer regarded as a luxury item and they lose their brand appeal to consumers and so does the Puma brand as a whole.” Puma highlighted the recent launch of the Fenty satin bow slide, which was meant to be linked to Paris Fashion Week, but that Forever 21 ruined the launch by mass distributing an "identical knock-off of an exclusive luxury good." Puma noted that it has already seen lower than predicted sales of its Fenty shoes as a result of Forever 21 copies, and fears that its soon to be launched updated Fenty fur slide sans ales and other shoe designs are being threatened by Forever 21 copies.

"Without a preliminary injunction Forever 21 will be able to continue its pattern of infringement and capitalize on upcoming launches for the Puma Fenty shoes to the significant detriment of the Puma brand,” said Puma. The move comes not long after Puma acquired a trade injunction against Topshop, who is said to have been selling its own knock off versions of Rihanna's Fenty shoe designs.

Photo: Puma x Fenty

PODCAST: In this monthly Fashion Friday podcast series directed by FashionUnited contributor Euromonitor International, Peder Kraugerud, an Industry Research at Euromonitor International, gives us a glance at the green beauty market in the Nordics.

Naturally healthy and organic food and drinks have grown substantially in the Nordics over the last decade. In fact the Nordic countries clearly lead the world in per capita expenditure on naturally health and organic products.

How’s the development for green beauty in the Nordics been?

Consumer demand and interest for natural and organic products is definitely there, in beauty and personal care, like it is food and drinks. However, the growth of green beauty in the Nordics has yet to fully take off and reach its potential as there’s a clear lack of a single ecolabel with clear standards.

Listen to the podcast to find out more

London - PVH Corp has signed a licensing agreement with USA Legwear LLC to manufacture, sell distribute and promote women's hosiery and socks under the Warner's brand.

Two of PVH subsidiaries are to offer socks, tights, leggings, as well as sheer hosiery items from Warner's, which will launch for Spring 2018 and be sold in leading department stores and specialty stores as well as mass retailers throughout the US and Canada.

“As we seek ways to grow the Warner’s product line, we naturally came upon hosiery as a great fit with our intimate apparel offerings," said Ken Wyse, President Licensing, PVH Corp."The Warner’s brand has a leading market share position in bras and panties, and we believe that USA Legwear can leverage this positioning to develop and grow a hosiery business."

“USA Legwear has extensive knowledge and experience in this product category, and we look forward to working with them to build this business," he added. USA Legwear, which was founded in 2009, offer socks and hosiery for a number of brands such as Reebok, Blody Glove and Nautica as well as PVH's Van Heusen brand.

“We are thrilled to add the Warner’s brand to our current portfolio and expand upon our existing partnership with PVH for its Van Heusen brand," added Aaron Harari, President and CEO, USA Legwear. "Socks and hosiery are a natural extension for the Warner’s brand. We look forward to bringing the highly successful solutions oriented model to the category through innovation, while continuing to fuel the market share momentum Warner’s has enjoyed over the last several years.”