Lord & Taylor, Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank, Moores Clothing for Men, K&G Fashion Superstore parent companies file for bankruptcy

August 2, 2020

by Daphne Sorenson

(Photo courtesy of Men’s Wearhouse)

On August 2, 2020, two major retail companies filed for bankruptcy: Le Tote Inc. (the San Francisco-based parent company of department store Lord & Taylor) and Tailored Brands Inc. (the Fremont, California-based parent company of Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A Bank, Moores Clothing for Men and K&G Fashion Superstore). Hundreds of stores will be shuttered and thousands of employees will be laid off as a result of these bankruptcies.

In 2019, Le Tote purchased Lord & Taylor from Saks Fifth Avenue owner Hudson’s Bay Co. for $71 million. Lord & Taylor was founded in New York City in 1826, reported $137.9 million of debt obligations in the bankruptcy. At the time of the bankruptcy filing, Lord & Taylor had 38 stores and 651 employees

According to Bloomberg: “Under the deal with Hudson’s Bay, the seller agreed to cover Lord & Taylor’s rent for three years, saving Le Tote $58 million annually. Le Tote said in a court filing Sunday that its companies reported revenue of about $253.5 million in 2019 … Executives at the company have planned to cut the number of Lord & Taylor stores and target younger women with luxury try-on studios, beauty subscriptions and rental drop-off points.”

Tailored Brands was founded in the Houston are in 1973 by George Zimmer, under the name Men’s Wearhouse. Zimmer famously appeared in TV ads for Men’s Wearhouse for several years in the 1980s and 1990s, with the slogan: “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.” The company went public in 1992, and Zimmer was ousted from the company in 2013, reportedly because he had difficulty adjusting to the company being public instead of private.

At the time of the bankruptcy filing, Tailored Brands had about  1,274 retail and apparel rental stores in the U.S. and 125 in Canada, and employed approximately 18,000 people. As of this writing, it’s unknown how many of these store locations will be permanently closed, but analysts estimate that it will be hundreds.

According to Bloomberg: “The plan calls for a $500 million bankruptcy loan backed by the company’s existing revolving credit facility lenders. Tailored Brands will ask the court’s permission to access the loan combined with cash on hand, including $90 million of previously restricted cash made available to fund operations throughout the restructuring. The bankruptcy loan will then convert to a $400 million revolving credit facility upon emergence from Chapter 11 … The company’s term loan holders will receive their portion of an exit term loan of between $325 million to $425 million and 100% of the reorganized equity, according to court documents. Shareholders will be wiped out, with no recovery from the plan.”

Even before the coronavirus pandemic (when LeTote and Tailored Brands temporarily closed all of retail locations on mid-March 2020), the companies were already headed toward financial disaster, since they had been closing an increasing number of stores since 2018. Depending on the state, county or city in the United States, some clothing retail stores have re-opened since the pandemic, while others have not, as of this writing. The re-opening policies vary.

Le Tote and Tailored Brands are among the growing list of fashion retailers that have declared bankruptcy since 2018. Barney’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019, while Nieman Marcus did the same in May 2020. J. Crew declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 2020. Low-end clothing retailers that shuttered in 2019 included Gymboree and Payless ShoeSource.

Other fashion retailers that had a massive percentage of store closures in 2018 and 2019 included Victoria’s Secret, Gap, Kohl’s, Abercrombie & Fitch, Foot Locker, Children’s Place and David’s Bridal. A few fashion retailers (such as Charlotte Russe and Bebe) have emerged from bankruptcy and are slowly trying to build back their business under new ownership. Department stores that carry fashion (such as Macy’s, JC Penney, Kmart and Sears) have also been closing stores.

 

Review: ‘Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful,’ starring Helmut Newton, Charlotte Rampling, Isabella Rossellini, Grace Jones, Anna Wintour, Hanna Schygulla and Claudia Schiffer

July 28, 2020

by Carla Hay

Helmut Newton in “Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful” (Photo courtesy of Helmut Newton Foundation)

“Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful”

Directed by Gero Von Boehm

Culture Representation: This documentary about famed German fashion photographer Helmut Newton interviews a nearly all-white, predominantly European group of people who were his business associates or close confidants.

Culture Clash: People often debate if some of Newton’s photos are “edgy” or “offensive,” and he was frequently accused of being sexist and misogynistic.

Culture Audience: “Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful” will appeal primarily to people interested in fashion photography from the late 20th century.

A 1978 photo by Helmut Newton in “Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful” (Photo courtesy of Helmut Newton Foundation)

Famed fashion photographer Helmut Newton, who died in 2004 at the age of 83, had the nickname King of Kink, so would his career have survived the #MeToo movement? And how would he have handled social media, where celebrities and models can create and show their own portfolio of photos to the world? These are interesting questions to think about when watching the fascinating and at times too-reverential documentary “Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful,” which chronicles the life of Newton, who had a reputation for being the German “bad boy” of fashion photography.

His death (he passed away in a car accident in Los Angeles) came years before the #MeToo movement and social media existed. And based on what’s presented in “Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful” (directed by Gero Von Boehm), an “old school” famous fashion photographer such as Newton might have had a difficult time adjusting to the #MeToo movement and social-media era, when sexually aggressive behavior in the workplace is less tolerated and celebrity selfies on Instagram have diluted the gatekeeper influence of A-list fashion photographers.

The greatest strength of the documentary is the access to archival video footage and photos from the Helmut Newton Foundation. They tell more about Newton in ways that no amount of interviews with “talking heads” would be able to tell. According to the documentary’s production notes, director Von Boehm met Helmut Newton in 1997, and stayed in touch with him and his wife June Newton (also known as photographer Alice Springs) over the years and filmed approved segments of Helmut’s life.

June (an Australian model/actress who married Helmut in 1948) is interviewed for the documentary. She does not appear on camera for these interviews, but is heard in voiceovers. June is seen in archival “home movie” type of footage and in photos. The couple did not have any children.

In the documentary’s production notes, Von Boehm says of the first time that he met Helmut: “We understood each other right away and discovered we had a very similar sense of humor, the same sense for bizarre situations.” But even if Von Boehm had not admitted this bias up front, it’s clear from watching the documentary that it was made by a director who has immense admiration for Helmut.

However, that worshipful attitude clouds this documentary’s perspective to the point where Helmut’s boorish ways are constantly excused in the documentary as Helmut just being Helmut, without giving any proper acknowledgement or context of the people he hurt along the way because he abused his power. For example, he had a reputation for pressuring female models to pose nude for him, but male models weren’t subjected to the same type of browbeating.

If it were really about “art” and celebrating the human body, and not sexism, then he wouldn’t have an obviously singular obsession with having so many naked women in his photos. And when his photos depicted degrading scenarios (such as bondage or being physically attacked), the targets of this degradation were women, not men.

Helmut had a reputation in the fashion industry for being a “dirty old man,” which is a reputation that he seemed to be proud of embracing, at a time when A-list fashion photographers (who are almost always men) could get away with a lot more in mistreating models than they can now. Some of the people interviewed in the film have a type of misguided snobbery that enables misogyny if it comes from someone famous or someone who can benefit them in some way.

Speaking of the people interviewed in the documentary, perhaps to offset the inevitable criticism of Helmut having a reputation for being sexist against women, director Von Boehm made the decision to have only women interviewed for the film. Not surprisingly, all of them praise Helmut. Do you really think that the filmmakers would want to include any women who were going to talk about their unpleasant experiences with Helmut? Of course not.

The interviewees include Vogue (U.S.) editor-in-chief/Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour, Vogue executive fashion editor Phyllis Posnick and gallerist Carla Sozzani, a close friend of Helmut and June Newton. The other women interviewed are mostly models or entertainers who were photographed by Helmut for fashion spreads, such as Isabella Rossellini, Charlotte Rampling, Claudia Schiffer, Marianne Faithfull, Grace Jones, Nadja Auermann, Sylvia Gobbel and Arja Toyryla.

Helmut’s family background and early career aren’t described until halfway through the movie. Born in Berlin in 1920, Helmut (whose birth surname was Neustädter) grew up Jewish in Germany under the Weimar Republic (which existed from 1918 to 1933), where he was surrounded by images and beliefs that white Aryans (light-skinned, non-Jewish Caucasians descended from most of Europe) are superior to all other people.

It’s not outrightly stated, but it’s pretty clear from interviews and how Helmut expressed himself in his work that this indoctrination of Aryan supremacy led to him having a lifelong inferiority complex about being Jewish in an Aryan world. Several people, including Helmut, say in that the documentary that this complex carried over into his fixation on what Helmut considered his ideal type of female model: tall, thin and Aryan-looking, preferably blonde.

Helmut’s mother Klara “Claire” (whom he describes as being “spoiled” with a strong personality) encouraged his interest in photography, while his father Max (who owned a button factory) disapproved because he didn’t think being a photographer was a “real” job. A recurring theme in Helmut’s life is that he was attracted to strong, beautiful women, but he also feared them. Given that Helmut’s mother is described as domineering, a Freudian psychiatrist would have a field day with giving an analysis of how Helmut’s complicated views of women affected his art.

In the documentary, Helmut says one of his earliest artistic influences was German director Leni Riefenstahl, who filmed a lot of Nazi propaganda under the Adolf Hitler regime. He describes Austrian American director Erich von Stroheim as “one of my heroes.” And it’s mentioned several times in the documentary that Helmut maintained a lifelong love of Berlin and the city’s artists.

Helmut’s first photography mentor was Yva, the alias of Else Ernestine Neuländer-Simon, a German Jewish photographer whom he worked with as an apprentice for two years. Helmut says of of his apprenticeship with Yva: “It was wonderful. I worshipped the ground she walked on.” (Yva tragically died in a Nazi concentration camp around 1942.)

Even as a teenager, Helmut had a rebellious side. In one of the documentary interviews, he remembers going to a public swimming pool where Jews weren’t allowed, and he stripped a girl naked in the pool. (He says the girl allowed him to do it.) This brazen act got him banned from the pool, but Helmut still cackles with glee when he tells the story decades later. As for his controversial image as a photographer, Helmut once famously said that he considered “art” and “good taste” to be bad words in photography.

His wife June is described as his authoritative partner and constant companion who was in charge of a lot of Helmut’s business interests. June says of her Helmut: “He was always a naughty boy, who grew up to be an anarchist.” There’s some archival footage of Helmut at a photo shoot in the 1980s where he jubilantly says to the camera that he just made $10,000 for the photo shoot, and it’ll be money that he’ll spend buying diamonds “for my Junie.”

The documentary includes rare footage of Helmut inside one of his and June’s homes, where he gives a brief tour for the people filming the footage. The interior décor can best be described as “kitschy” and “gaudy,” cluttered with a lot of trinkets and knickknacks. They also had a several Barbie dolls on display. It’s in stark contrast to the sleek, sophisticated-looking and artsy photos that Helmut was known to take.

And what do some of Helmut’s former photo subjects have to say about him?

Italian-born actress Rossellini worked with Helmut for the first time in 1986, when Helmut did a photo shoot with Rossellini and director David Lynch to promote the movie “Blue Velvet.” She comments that Helmut “represents men who are attracted to women, but then resent [women] because they’re attracted to them, so they make [women] vulnerable.”

French actress Rampling, who posed for Helmut’s first major nude photo shoot in 1973, says of his often-controversial reputation: “It’s great to be a provocateur. That’s what the world needs. Who cares about the man himself? We’re looking at his art.” Rampling also says that art is not meant to be objective and looked at in the same way by all people: “There is no neutrality. Everything is tainted with a point of view.”

German model/actress Gobbel comments that being a tall, blonde woman in her modeling days often made her fell like “a hunted deer,” but she says that being photographed by Helmut made her feel “stronger.” Finnish model Toyryla echoes a similar thought, by saying of her experience working with Helmut: “I just looked into his eyes, and I knew what he wanted. It felt good. I felt safe.” German actress/singer Schygulla says, “I found him amusing, this mix of ease and humor, but also obsession.”

British singer/actress Faithfull worked with Helmut in the 1980s. One of her more well-known photo shoots with Helmut resulted in a famous set of 1981 Esquire magazine photos of her wearing a leather jacket, with nothing on underneath the jacket: “Helmut made me show my tits without [me] feeling any embarrassment or shame.” (The photos are actually very tame, since her nipples aren’t showing.)

German former supermodel Schiffer, who did several non-nude photo shoots with Newton, worked with him for the first time when she was 17. She describes the experience this way: “There was never a moment when I felt uncomfortable. It was an amazing experience, where I walked away saying, ‘This man is incredible.’ He had sort of a twinkle in his eyes.”

Schiffer also describes a Helmut Newton photo shoot where a very young and inexperienced female model showed up, not knowing that she would have to pose in a dominant/submissive scenario. In the photo shoot, the newbie model was dressed as a maid, while Schiffer portrayed the maid’s rich employer. In one of the photos (which is seen in the documentary), Schiffer is standing over the kneeling “maid” while forcing her head into an oven. According to Schiffer, the other model was very nervous at first, but they all ended up having a laugh over it.

Auermann, another German former supermodel, says that “Helmut actually really loved strong women.” However, she admits that because she didn’t give in to his constant pressure to pose nude for him, she didn’t work with him for two years. Auermann was a model for two of Helmut’s most controversial photo spreads.

In (U.S.) Vogue’s June 1994 issue, Aeurmann did a Helmut Newton photo shoot where they recreated the Greek myth “Leda and the Swan,” and it caused outrage because Auermann was posed with the swan (which was a taxidermy animal) in a sexually suggestive way. She says that people sent a lot of hate mail because of that photo shoot, which critics said looked like it was promoting bestiality and animal cruelty. Auermann believes that people would have been less offended if they knew that the swan used in the photo shoot was actually a stuffed animal.

The January 1995 issue of (U.S.) Vogue featured Helmut Newton photos of Auermann posed as a person with leg disabilities, such as being in a wheelchair, using crutches and wearing leg braces. In one photo, using visual effects, it looks like she has one leg, while her “missing” leg is detached and posed upright next to her. In the documentary, Auermann (who is able-bodied in real life) remembers the public reaction being a “shitstorm” because people thought that the photos were making  a mockery of disabled people.

Jamaican singer/actress Jones is one of the few people of color who was asked to do a Helmut Newton photo shoot. Jones had her own controversial set of photos with him in the 1980s, when she usually posed completely nude for him. A semi-erotic 1985 photo shoot that Jones and Dolph Lundgren (her lover at the time) did for Playboy magazine caused a little bit of a stir with people who were uncomfortable with seeing a naked interracial couple in provocative poses.

But those photos weren’t as nearly as controversial as a Helmut Newton photo on the cover of Stern magazine (a German publication) that had Jones posed naked, with chains on her legs, conjuring up an image that made her look like a slave. Jones dismisses the “slave image” controversy in the documentary and says, “I really wasn’t aware that it made such a big scandal. I kind of heard around a bit of [accusations of] sexism and racism, but I never felt that at all. I mean, it’s like acting in films.”

Jones admits that she thought Helmut was like a “god” and she  jumped at the chance to work with him. But she also says that Helmut had a weird habit of asking to do a photo shoot with her and then sending her away because he remembered that she was flat-chested and he wanted to shoot models with bigger breasts.

Jones says she didn’t take offense because she thought of him as an eccentric. “He was a little bit of a pervert, but so am I, so that’s okay,” Jones comments. “His pictures were erotic, but with dimensions … They told stories.”

Vogue’s Wintour (who worked with Helmut for many years) says in the documentary, “If you were to give an assignment to Helmut, you weren’t going to receive a pretty girl on a lovely beach. That’s not what he was about.” She adds that Vogue expected that photos from him would be “iconic, sometimes disturbing, certainly thought-provoking … You might consider it brave, but I would consider it necessary.” She says that his photos were needed as a counterpoint to the overly glamorous, fantasy-level type of photos that proliferate in fashion.

And his fashion photography wasn’t always about humans. Posnick remembers Helmut being ecstatic when Vogue gave him an assignment to do a photo shoot featuring his favorite animals: chickens. There was his famous 1994 “Roast Chicken and Bulgari Jewels” photo spread for Vogue, showing a roasted chicken being cut with a large knife by a woman’s hands wearing Bulgari jewelry.

He told the Vogue editors that he always wanted to photograph chickens wearing high heels. And so, in 1998, Vogue flew in some high heels from a doll museum in Monte Carlo so that Helmut could do a photo called “Chicken in Heels,” which showed of a cooked chicken wearing the high-heeled doll shoes. When a photographer is indulged in this over-the-top way, is it any wonder that this person would be on an egotistical power trip?

There’s some archival footage in the documentary that looks like it was filmed sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, where Helmut is doing a photo shoot with a female model in a skimpy swimsuit and a male model wearing scuba-fiving gear. He jokes to the male model, “If you get a hard-on, you’ll get more money.” Helmut then adds, presumably talking about Wintour: “I’m going to send this to Anna. She’ll have a fit.”

For all this talk about Helmut being a “provocateur” and “edgy,” apparently something that was too much out of his comfort zone was working with a racially diverse group of models. Jones, one of the few black women he photographed, was already a celebrity when she began working with him. But women of color, even if they were famous models, apparently had little to no chance of working with him. The documentary includes rare footage of a casting call that Newton did sometime in the 1980s, and all of the models are white—which probably means that modeling agencies already knew not to bother sending any non-white women to this casting call.

The documentary makes it clear that Helmut had a certain type of model that he preferred (tall, thin and Aryan-looking), but nowhere does the documentary address the race issue and why he didn’t seem very open to working with non-white models. It speaks to a larger culture of race exclusion in an industry where Vogue magazine, which launched in 1892, didn’t hire a black photographer to shoot a Vogue cover until Beyoncé was given unprecedented complete creative control for her 2018 (U.S.) Vogue cover shoot. (In June 2020, Wintour publicly admitted that Vogue has had racism problems for many years,  and she made an apology, with a vague promise to improve Vogue’s race relations with people of color.)

Also noticeably omitted from the documentary is any discussion about drug use, which is rampant in the fashion industry. And as for infidelity, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Helmut, whose job was taking photos of a lot of beautiful women (many of them naked), wasn’t exactly a faithful husband, although he and June stayed married for about 56 years.

Family friend Sozzani explains Helmut and June Newton’s relationship, by saying that there was infidelity on both sides, but nothing that was serious enough to ruin their marriage: “I think they were everything together. This is the dream of every couple in life, to have met your perfect person that you respect, that you can build something together. It’s wonderful.” Sozzani adds, “They had difficult times, like every couple,” as she describes with a chuckle how furious Helmut was when he caught June in a hotel with another man.

Cameras and taking photos were such an obsession for June and Helmut that the documentary includes photos that they took of each other in hospitals after having surgery and showing their surgery scars. June comments, “The only thing that kept him going was the little camera by his side. Yes, it is a protection … He even took it into the operating room.”

And there’s a morbid photo included at the end of the film that June took of herself holding Helmut’s head in her arms, right after his fatal car accident. It’s unclear if he’s dead or unconscious in the photo, but it’s implied that June knew that it would be the last photo she would take of him.

Because so much of the documentary is a praise-fest of Helmut, the only voice of criticism comes from a 1970s clip from a TV talk show where he and feminist Susan Sontag were guests. Sontag tells him she’s not a fan of his work because his photos are often misogynistic, while Helmut objects to that opinion and says that he actually loves women.

An unflappable Sontag replies that misogynists often claim that they love women, but then still show them in a humiliating way. She then shuts down Helmut by saying, “The master loves his slave. The executioner loves his victim.”

The documentary also includes an audio clip from an interview Helmut did (it’s unclear if he made this comment for the documentary or if it’s from an outside interview) where he makes a very telling comment. Helmut comes right out and admits that he doesn’t really care about the models he works with, and that he just cares about how they photograph when he takes their pictures.

Although the documentary doesn’t offer any new interviews with any critics of Helmut, there’s no doubt that he made a lot of memorable art, whether people were fans of his or not. Most of his photos were not degrading to women, and there are many interesting visuals in the documentary that put into context why Helmut was attracted to making this kind of art. (However, people who have a problem with seeing a lot of naked people in photos will probably want to skip watching this film.)

Was he sexist? Was he racist? “Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful” doesn’t seem to want to answer those questions, but there’s enough of a compelling story here, so people can judge for themselves whether or not they want to separate the man from his art.

Kino Lorber released “Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful” in select U.S. virtual cinemas on July 24, 2020.

Ascena Retail Group files for bankruptcy; parent company of Ann Taylor, Loft, Lane Bryant, Justice, Lou & Grey, and Catherines and more will close hundreds of stores

July 23, 2020

by Daphne Sorenson

Ascena Retail Group—the Mahwah, New Jersey-based corporation that owns several major women’s fashion retail stores—filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 23, 2020. Ascena is the parent company of the retail stores Ann Taylor, Factory Ann Taylor, Loft, Loft Outlet, Lane Bryant, Justice, Lou & Grey and Catherines. According to Bloomberg, Ascena expects to shut down about 1,600 of its 2,800 stores worldwide. All of the Catherines stores will be shuttered.

Bloomberg also reports: “The company listed about $12.5 billion of liabilities, including $1.6 billion of funded debt. More than two-thirds of its secured term lenders support its restructuring plan, and they’ll wind up owning most of the new equity, Ascena said in a statement and court papers. Almost $1 billion in debt will be erased, and Ascena will get $150 million in fresh funds from existing lenders.”

The company was founded in 1962, in Stamford, Connecticut, under the name Dressbarn and then changed its named to Ascena Retail Group in 2011. Ann Taylor and its lower-priced spinoff Factory Ann Taylor cater to career women on the go, while Loft and its lower-priced spinoff Loft Outlet target a younger customer base. Lou & Grey offered mostly casual clothing for women. Lane Bryant and Catherines were launched as clothing stores for plus-sized women. Justice has fashion for girls ages 7 to 14.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic (when Ascena temporarily closed all of retail locations on March 18, 2020), the company was already headed toward financial disaster, since it had been closing an increasing number of stores since 2018. Ascena Retail Group closed all Dressbarn locations in 2019. Depending on the state, county or city in the United States, some clothing retail stores have re-opened since the pandemic, while others have not, as of this writing. The re-opening policies vary.

Ascena Retail Group is among the growing list of fashion retailers that have declared bankruptcy since 2018. On the high-end retail spectrum, Henri Bendel completely shuttered its stores in 2019. Barney’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019, while Nieman Marcus did the same in May 2020. Lord & Taylor is reportedly close to Chapter 11 bankruptcy as well.

Non-luxury fashion retailers have also been victims of the “retail apocalypse,” which has been largely blamed on the rise of online shopping. J. Crew declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 2020. Low-end clothing retailers that shuttered in 2019 included Gymboree and Payless ShoeSource.

Other fashion retailers that had a massive percentage of store closures in 2018 and 2019 included Victoria’s Secret, Gap, Kohl’s, Abercrombie & Fitch, Foot Locker, Children’s Place and David’s Bridal. A few fashion retailers (such as Charlotte Russe and Bebe) have emerged from bankruptcy and are slowly trying to build back their business under new ownership. Department stores that carry fashion (such as Macy’s, JC Penney, Kmart and Sears) have also been closing stores.

Alexander McQueen massive sale on eBay; CLD PR sells largest North American private collection of McQueen fashion on eBay

June 17, 2020

Alexander McQueen in “McQueen” (Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street)

The following is an announcement from CLD PR:

As many of you may know, we at CLD have the largest Alexander McQueen archive in North America (curated over a 10+ year period, with the vast majority of the pieces being designed by Lee Alexander McQueen himself prior to his untimely passing). After many years of being unwilling to part with any of it, we’ve decided to sell it! Many of these pieces are one-of-a-kinds, runway pieces, couture works of art, and rare or sentimental. This is an unprecedented chance to own a piece of fashion history.
The ENTIRE collection can now be found here on eBay. A tiny preview of our pieces is below.
We hope that whatever home each piece goes to appreciates & values the pieces for the treasures they are.

 

Victoria’s Secret acquisition deal with Sycamore Partners cancelled; L Brands will still spin off Victoria’s Secret as private company

May 4, 2020

by Daphne Sorenson

Models at the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show (Photo by Jeff Neira/ABC)

In February 2020, Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands (based in Columbus, Ohio) had announced that it sold a 55% stake in Victoria’s Secret to private equity firm Sycamore Partners, for a reported $525 million, but that deal has now been cancelled.  According to fashion trade publication WWD, L Brands still plans to spin off Victoria’s Secret into a private company, while also doing the same for Bath & Body Works. As part of the restructuring, L Brands chairman/CEO Les Wexner stepped down from his position, after founding the company in 1963. In March 2020, it was announced that Sarah E. Nash is his replacement.

Victoria’s Secret and its Pink spinoff brand have been experiencing a sharp decline in sales in recent years. The coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in the temporary closures of numerous clothing retailers worldwide, worsened the fortunes of Victoria’s Secret. The $525 million price tag for Victoria’s Secret was far lower than the $7.6 billion that Victoria’s Secret was valued at in 2015. The brand’s sales peaked during the 2006-2016 CEO leadership of Sharen Jester Turney, who left the company in 2016. After the coronavirus pandemic, Victoria’s Secret value no doubt plummeted even lower than $525 million.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Victoria’s Secret was on a downward spiral. The year 2019 was turbulent for Victoria’s Secret and L Brands. In August 2019, more than 100 models and several of their allies (including Models Alliance and Times Up) signed an open letter to Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas to demand an end to the sexual abuse and sexual harassment that has allegedly been running rampant against Victoria’s Secret models.

The letter was published just two days after L Brands chief marketing officer Ed Razek publicly announced he was leaving the company. Wexner and Razek had close ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested again in July 2019, for sex crimes, specifically, for sex trafficking of women and underage girls. Epstein was found dead in his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City on August 10, 2019. According to the Associated Press, he died of an apparent suicide by hanging.

Razek came under fire in 2018, when he said in a Vogue interview that Victoria’s Secret was not interested in hiring plus-sized or transgender models. In August 2019, Victoria’s Secret hired its first transgender model: Valentina Sampaio, who posted the news on her Instagram account. But that milestone was apparently too little, too late.

The open letter blasting Victoria’s Secret was among several blows to the company in 2019.  The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was completely canceled only a few months after it was announced that the show would not be televised anymore.

In addition, about 15% of Victoria’s Secret employees (about 50 people) were laid off in October 2019, the same month that Victoria’s Secret head of stores and store operations April Holt stepped down from her position after 16 years working for the company.

Meanwhile, rival lingerie brands such as Aerie, ThirdLove, Adore Me and Lively have experienced an increase in sales in recent years. Many market analysts have noted that Victoria’s Secret alienated many customers by having only tall and thin models in its marketing, while newer brands embrace a more diverse variety of body sizes in their marketing and in their product selections. In addition, websites that track customer feedback for retailers have noted that there have been numerous complaints about the decreasing quality of Victoria’s Secret products and customer service.

J. Crew files for bankruptcy, joins growing list of fashion retailers in financial downward spirals

May 4, 2020

by Daphne Sorenson

J. Crew, the New York City-based fashion brand known for making the “preppy look” popular in the 1980s, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, while its stores remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic. According to Bloomberg: “Anchorage Capital Group, Blackstone Group Inc.’s GSO Capital Partners and Davidson Kempner Capital Management will be among J. Crew’s new owners and will shape the board of directors once it exits bankruptcy, according to court papers. Those firms are leading a $400 million bankruptcy loan to keep J. Crew operating.”

The company was founded in 1947 under the name Popular Merchandise, Inc., and then changed its named to J. Crew in 1983. J. Crew became known for selling upscale “preppy” clothes for the type of customers who wanted to project an image that they have the money to belong to a country club or to have their own boats.

J. Crew has approximately 500 stores, including the brands Madewell and the lower-priced J. Crew Factory. Even before the coronavirus pandemic (when J. Crew closed all of its factories and retail locations, as of March 17, 2020), the company was already headed toward financial disaster, since it had been closing an increasing number of stores since 2018.

J. Crew is among the growing list of fashion retailers that have declared bankruptcy since 2018. Barney’s filed for bankruptcy in 2019, and Nieman Marcus is reportedly close to bankruptcy as well. Casualties in the high-end fashion retail business that have completely shuttered in the past year have included Lord & Taylor and Henri Bendel.

Non-luxury fashion retailers have also been victims of the “retail apocalypse,” which has been largely blamed on the rise of online shopping. Low-end clothing retailers that shuttered in 2019 included Gymboree and Payless ShoeSource. Fashion retailers that had a massive percentage of store closures in 2018 and 2019 included Ann Taylor, Dressbarn, Victoria’s Secret, Gap, Kohl’s, Abercrombie & Fitch,  Foot Locker, Children’s Place and David’s Bridal. A few fashion retailers (such as Charlotte Russe and Bebe) have emerged from bankruptcy and are slowly trying to build back their business under new ownership. Department stores that carry fashion (such as Macy’s, JC Penney, Kmart and Sears) have also been closing stores.

Revlon appoints Jessica Jung as global brand ambassador

April 30, 2020

Jessica Jung (Photo courtesy of Revlon)

The following is a press release from Revlon:

Global beauty leader Revlon announces singer, author, actress, model and fashion designer Jessica Jung as its newest Global Brand Ambassador. The multi-hyphenate, known for her rise to K-pop stardom, will represent the brand in Asia and appear in global campaigns this year for the iconic Super Lustrous and ColorStay franchises along with other new launches such as new Total Color permanent hair color

“Revlon has always represented the epitome of glamour for me. As a young girl growing up in San Francisco, I couldn’t help but be dazzled by the bold imagery of iconic women wearing Revlon makeup!” said Jessica Jung, “To now be part of these legendary Revlon ambassadors is a thrill and an honor.”

“We were drawn to Jessica because she is a force of nature, channeling her positive energy and entrepreneurial mindset into achieving her goals and breaking boundaries all along the way. She loves to experiment with beauty and has an unapologetic spirit that helps her transcend convention, perfectly capturing our Live Boldly ethos. We’re thrilled to have her as part of the Revlon family,” added Silvia Galfo, Revlon Global Brand President.

Born in San Francisco to Korean parents, Jung, or popularly known as Jessica, to her millions of global fans, moved to Korea at age 11 to pursue her dream as a performer.  She was discovered at South Korean shopping mall with her sister, rose to K-Pop stardom as a member of a popular girl group and went on to become an accomplished actress, singer, author and fashion designer with her own line, Blanc & Eclare. She speaks English, Korean and Chinese and has become an international superstar by forging her own path and pursuing her passions through a wide range of creative endeavors.

Jung is the newest addition to the cohort of bold women representing Revlon, including actress Gal Gadot, actress and recording artist Sofia Carson, model and activist Ashley Graham, model Adwoa Aboah, and model Eniola Abioro.

She will begin appearing on behalf of Revlon across all media platforms in Spring 2020.

Jessica Jung (Photo courtesy of Revlon)

About Revlon:
An iconic American beauty brand, Revlon was founded in 1932 with revolutionary opaque nail enamel. Today the brand is regarded as global beauty leader, innovator and color expert, offering consumers in more than 150 countries a range of high quality color cosmetics, under leading franchises including ColorStay, Super Lustrous, Revlon Ultra HD and PhotoReady Candid. The brand has a rich heritage in hair color and care, including ColorSilk, the number one consumer hair color brand in the US. Revlon also offers a wide range of tools for beauty and nail.  Revlon serves professional hair stylists and colorists with the Revlon Professional line, offering hair color, hair care and styling products under the Revlonissimo, UniqOne, and Equave franchises.  Revlon Professional also provides cutting edge education to help salon professionals around the world transform their clients to look their very best. With a long-standing commitment to women’s progress, health and well-being, the brand has history of raising funds and awareness for women’s issues through signature programs like the Revlon Run Walk and The Revlon Million Dollar Challenge.

 

Coronavirus cancellations and postponements in the fashion and beauty industries

March 16, 2020

by Daphne Sorenson

Updated June 30, 2020

Kacey Musgraves and Gemma Chan at the 2019 Met Gala in New York City, a star-studded annual fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. The 2020 edition of the Met Gala is one of several events that have been postponed or cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photos courtesy of Forevermark)

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in the cancellation or postponement of numerous fashion events, as well as temporary closings of several fashion/beauty retailers and businesses that provide personal grooming services, such as beauty salons, barbershops, spas and nail salons. In the United States and other countries, public gatherings of more than 50 people per gathering are being banned, so any such gathering that was scheduled to take place in 2020 will most likely be cancelled or postponed. Most companies whose brick-and-mortar retail locations have temporarily closed will still have products and services available online.

Here’s a list of what’s been affected so far. This list will be updated with breaking news. All re-opening dates are subject to change, since individual states and cities have different phases on when companies and store locations will be allowed to re-open to the public.

Abercrombie & Fitch/Hollister

The New Albany, Ohio-based clothing retailer (which includes the Hollister brand) has closed all of its stores in North America (as of March 15, 2020) and in Europe (as of March 16, 2020). The company’s stores in the Pacific Asia region will remain open.

Alice + Olivia

The New York City-based womenswear retailer has closed all of its stores until further notice, as of March 17, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Allbirds

The San Francisco-based footwear retailer has closed all of its stores in the U.S. and Europe until further notice, as of March 15, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

American Eagle Outfitters

The Pittsburgh-based clothing retailer has closed all its stores (including American Eagle Outfitters and Aerie) in North America  until further notice, as of March 17, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

American Events NE Materials Show

The event was scheduled to take place in Boston on February 5 and February 6, 2020, but the show has been rescheduled for July 22 and July 23, 2020.

American Events NW Materials Show

The event was scheduled to take place in Portland, Oregon, on February 12 and February 13, 2020, but the show has been rescheduled for July 29 and July 30, 2020.

Ancient Greek Sandals

The Athens-based footwear company has closed all stores and operations until further notice.

Aritzia

The Vancouver-based womenswear company has closed its stores in North America until further notice, as of March 16, 2020.

Armani

The Armani Cruise 2021 Show was supposed to take place on April 19, 2020, but the show has been postponed until further notice. In related news, the opening of the Armani Dubai boutique that was scheduled for April 20, 2020, has been tentatively rescheduled for November 2020, on a date to be announced.

Ascena Retail Group

The Mahwah, New Jersey-based clothing retailer has closed all of its stores, including Ann Taylor, Factory Ann Taylor, Loft, Loft Outlet, Lane Bryant, Lou & Grey, Catherines and Justice. The stores are closed from March 18 to March 28, 2020. The re-opening dates for these operations are subject to change. (Updated March 17, 2020)

Benefit Cosmetics

The San Francisco-based cosmetics retailer has closed all of its Benefit Boutique and Brow Bar locations in the U.S. and Canada  until further notice, as of March 17, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Buck Mason

The Los Angeles-based menswear company has closed all of its stores until further notice, as of March 14, 2020.

Burlington

The Burlington Township, New Jersey-based discount clothing retailer announced that it is reducing store hours from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time, as of March 17, 2020, until further notice. (Updated March 17, 2020)

Canada Goose

The York, Canada-based clothing retailer has closed all of its stores in North America and Europe until further notice, as of March 17, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

CFDA Fashion Awards

The annual Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Awards show in New York City has been postponed until further notice. The award ceremony had been scheduled to take place on June 8, 2020. (Updated March 18, 2020)

Chanel

The Paris-based luxury brand has closed all of its stores in the U.S.  until further notice, as of March 16, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Chico’s FAS

The Fort Myers, Florida-based clothing retailer is closing all of its stores in North America, including Chico’s, White House Black Market, Soma Intimates and TellTale, until further notice, as of March 17, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Columbia Sportswear

The Portland, Oregon-based clothing company has closed its stores in North America until further notice, as of March 16, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Desigual

The Barcelona-based clothing retailer has closed all of its U.S. stores, as of March 17, 2020, until further notice. The company’s stores in Spain, Italy and Portugal already closed earlier in March 2020. (Updated March 17, 2020)

Dior

The Paris-based luxury retailer has closed all of its U.S. stores, as of March 17, 2020, until further notice. In related news, the Dior Cruise 2021 show was scheduled to take place in Lecce, Italy, on May 9, 2020, but the show has been postponed until further notice. (Updated March 17, 2020)

DSW

The Columbus, Ohio-based discount shoes/accessories retailer (also known as Designer Shoe Warehouse) has closed all of its stores, as of March 17, 2020, until further notice. (Updated March 17, 2020)

Everlane

The San Francisco-based ethical fashion brand has closed all of its stores until further notice, as of March 15, 2020.

Foot Locker

The New York City-based sportswear retailer has closed all of its U.S. stores until further notice, as of March 17, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Fossil

The Richardson, Texas-based accessories company has closed all of its stores in North America until further notice, as of March 17, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Gap, Inc.

The San Francisco-based company (whose stores include Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Intermix, Hill City and Athleta) has closed most of its stores worldwide until further notice. The stores that remain open will have reduced hours.

Glossier

The New York City-based beauty retailer has closed all of its stores until further notice, as of March 13, 2020. A new Glossier store had been scheduled to open in Atlanta on March 18, 2020, but that opening has been postponed.

GOAT

The Culver City, Calfornia-based athletic-shoe/streetwear reseller has closed seller drop-off locations in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami, until further notice.

Goop

Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand closed all of its non-pop-up stores until further notice, as of March 14, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Greats

The luxury athletic-shoe brand has closed all of its stores until further notice, as of March 15, 2020.

H&M

The Stockholm-based discount clothing retailer issued this vague statement on March 18, 2020: “In response to the prevention and control of the disease outbreak, we have already, or will shortly, close many of our stores. In stores that remain open or are re-opened, we’re prepared to respond quickly to any emerging situation.” In North America, all H&M stores closed until further notice, as of March 15, 2020. H&M also includes the store brands Cos and Arket. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Helmut Lang

The luxury designer has closed its New York City store, as of March 17, 2020, until further notice. (Updated March 17, 2020)

J. Crew

The New York City-based clothing retailer has closed all of its J. Crew and J. Crew Factory stores until further notice, as of March 17, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

JCPenney

The Plano, Texas-based retailer has closed all of its stores until further notice, as of March 18, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Journelle

The New York City-based luxury lingerie brand will close its New York City stores, as of March 17, 2020, until further notice.

Kering

The Paris-based parent company of Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Saint Laurent, Brioni and Pomellato is closing all of its store locations in the U.S. and Canada, from March 17, 2020, until further notice. (Updated March 17, 2020)

Kiehl’s

The New York City-based skincare beauty retailer has closed all of its U.S. stores, as of March 17, 2020, until further notice. (Updated March 17, 2020)

Kith

The New York City-based streetwear company has closed all of its U.S. stores as of March 16, 2020, until further notice.

Kohl’s

The Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin-based retailer has closed from March 19 to April 1, 2020. The re-opening date is subject to change. In related news, Kohl’s announced on March 17, 2020, that it has partnered with Land’s End to offer the entire Land’s End assortment of women’s, men’s, kids, and home merchandise on Kohls.com, directly fulfilled and shipped by Lands’ End, beginning in the fall 2020. (Updated March 19, 2020)

Lafayette 148

The Brooklyn, New York-based womenswear retailer is closed until further notice, as of March 22, 2020. (Updated March 22, 2020)

Lands’ End

The Dodgeville, Wisconsin-based clothing retailer has closed all of its U.S. stores until further notice, as of March 17, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Lululemon Athletica Inc.

The Vancouver-based retailer that sells athletic-oriented clothes and other products closed all of its stores in North America and Europe until further notice, as of March 16, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Levi Strauss & Co.

The San Francisco-based denim retailer has closed all of its North American stores until further notice, as of March 17, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

L.L. Bean

The Freeport, Maine-based outdoor/athletic gear retailer has closed all of its U.S. stores until further notice, as of March 17, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Lush

The Poole, United Kingdom-based beauty-product retailer has closed all of its stores in the U.S. and Canada, from until further notice, as of March 16, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Macy’s, Inc.

The New York City-based retailer has closed all of its stores, including Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Bluemercury, Macy’s Backstage, Bloomingdales the Outlet and Market by Macy’s. The stores  until further notice, as of March 17, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Met Gala

The star-studded annual fashion event, held in New York City on the first Monday in May to benefit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, has been postponed until further notice. This year’s Met Gala was originally scheduled for May 4, 2020.

ModelLand

The grand opening of Tyra Banks’ fashion/beauty theme park in Santa Monica, California, has been postponed until further notice. Although there hadn’t been a specific opening date set, ModelLand was expected to open in the spring of 2020. (Updated March 18, 2020)

Neiman Marcus Group

The Dallas-based luxury retailer has closed all of its stores (including Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Last Call) from March 17, 2020 until further notice. (Updated March 17, 2020)

New Balance

The athletic shoe/clothing company has closed its office, factory, and retail stores in the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe until further notice, as of March 16, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Nike

The Beaverton, Oregon-based athletic shoe/clothing company (which includes the Converse brand) has closed all of its stores in the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand until further notice, as of March 16, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Nordstrom

The Seattle-based retailer has closed all of its stores until further notice, as of March 17, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Opening Ceremony

The New York City-based clothing company has closed all of its store locations until further notice.

Outdoor Voices

The Austin, Texas-based athletic fashion/gear company has closed  all of its U.S. stores until further notice, as of March 16, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Patagonia

The Ventura, California-based outdoor/athletic company has closed all stores and operations until further notice, as of March 13, 2020.

Phillip Lim

The New York City-based designer clothing retailer has closed all of its stores outside of Asia until further notice.

Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation (PVH)

The New York City-based parent company of the brands Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, IZOD, Arrow, Warner’s, Olga, True & Co. and Geoffrey Beene is closing of all its retail stores in North America and Europe until further notice, as of March 17, 2020.  Many of the  PVH-owned stores in the Asia Pacific region have re-opened, but some have reduced hours.

Prada Cruise 2021 Show

This runway show was set to take place on May 21, 2020, but has now been postponed until further notice.

Ralph Lauren

The New York City-based luxury fashion company, which includes the brands Ralph Lauren and Club Monaco, has closed all of its stores in the U.S. and some other countries, until further notice, as of March 18, 2020. The re-opening date is subject to change. In related news, the Ralph Lauren Fall 2020 runway show has been postponed until further notice. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Rebecca Minkoff

The New York City-based fashion company has reduced hours at all of its store locations until further notice.

Reformation

The Los Angeles-based clothing retailer has closed all of its stores, as of March 14, 2020, until further notice.

REI

The Kent, Washington-based company, whose specialty is outdoor/athletic products (including clothes), has closed all of its stores worldwide until further notice.

Ross Dress for Less

The Dublin, California-based discount clothing retailer has closed all of its stores until further notice, as of March 20, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Rothy

The San Francisco-based shoe company has closed all of its U.S. stores until further notice.

RuPaul’s DragCon LA

This annual Los Angeles event celebrating drag queens has been cancelled. RuPaul’s DragCon LA, whose vendors are mostly in the fashion and beauty industries, had been scheduled to take place May 1 to May 3, 2020.

Saks Fifth Avenue

The New York City-based luxury retailer has closed all of its stores in the U.S. and Canada until further notice, as of March 18, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Sephora

The Paris-based beauty-product retailer has closed some stores and reduced hours at other stores that remain open. Sephora customers need to check with an individual store to find out what the situation is at that location.

Shanghai Fashion Week

Shanghai Fashion Week in China was scheduled for March 26 to April 2, 2020, but has now been postponed until further notice.

Supreme 

The New York City-based streetwear company has closed of all its stores until further notice.

Tailored Brands

The Houston-based menswear retailer (which includes Men’s Wearhouse and the Jos. A. Bank) has closed all of its U.S. stores until further notice, as of March 17, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Tapestry, Inc.

The New York City-based luxury fashion company (which owns the brands Kate Spade, Coach and Stuart Weitzman) has closed all of its stores until further notice.

Target 

The Minneapolis-based retailer has reduced hours at all of its stores, as of March 18, 2020, until further notice. (Updated March 18, 2020)

Tiffany and Co.

The New York City-based luxury jewelry retailer has closed all of its stores in the U.S. and Canada, as of March 17, 2020, until further notice. (Updated March 17, 2020)

TJ Maxx

The Framingham, Massachusetts-based discount clothing retailer has closed all of its stores, as of March 19, 2020, until further notice. (Updated March 19, 2020)

Ulta Beauty

The Bolingbrook, Illinois-based beauty-product retailer has temporarily closed some locations and reduced hours of other locations that remain open. In-store hair services are discontinued until further notice, as of March 16, 2020.

Under Armour

The Baltimore-based streetwear fashion company has closed all of its store locations in North America until further notice, as of March 16, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Uniqlo

The Yamaguchi, Japan-based clothing retailer has closed all of its U.S. stores, as of March 17, 2020, until further notice.

Urban Outfitters, Inc.

The Philadelphia-based clothing retailer has closed until further notice all of its stores worldwide, including Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, BHLDN, Free People and Terrain.

Versace Cruise 2021 Show

This co-ed runway show was set to take place on May 16, 2020, but has now been postponed until further notice.

VF Corp.

Denver-based VF Corp. has several retail brands that include Jansport, North Face, Timberland, Vans, Altra, Bulwark Protection, Dickies, Eagle Creek, Eastpak, Horace Small, Icebraker, Kipling, Kodiak, Napapijri, Red Kap, Smartwool, Terra, VF Solutions and Walls Outdoor Goods. The company has closed its stores in North America and in continental Europe until further notice. Any re-opening date is subject to change. The company’s stories in the United Kingdom and Asia are operating at reduced hours. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Victoria’s Secret

The Columbus, Ohio-based lingerie/swimwear company (which includes Victoria’s Secret and Pink) has closed all of its brick-and-mortar stores until further notice. The Victoria’s Secret online store is closed until March 29, 2020. (Updated March 19, 2020)

Walmart

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail giant is reducing store hours at its U.S. locations, as of March 15, 2020.

Warby Parker

The New York City-based eyeglass retailer closed all of its stores until further notice, as of March 15, 2020. (Updated March 31, 2020)

Amazon Prime Video series ‘Making the Cut,’ starring Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, announces Season 1 contestants

February 24, 2020

The following is a press release from Amazon Prime Video:

Amazon Original series “Making the Cut” reveals its first official look at the upcoming season, hosted and executive produced by Heidi Klum & Tim Gunn. The series will premiere on Prime Video on Friday March 27, 2020. The 10-episode fashion competition series, which brings together a diverse group of 12 talented entrepreneurs and designers, will premiere two new episodes each week, culminating in an epic finale on April 24, 2020.

In this first-ever global and instantly shoppable series, limited editions of the winning look from each episode will be available for purchase exclusively on Amazon in the “Making the Cut” store. During the course of the season, those who do not “make the cut” will be eliminated, with the winning designer from the finale receiving one million dollars to invest in their brand and the opportunity to create an exclusive line available on Amazon.

The dozen designers featured on “Making the Cut” will visit three of the world’s fashion capitals – New York, Paris, and Toyko – and face challenges and assignments that will test not only their design skills but also their ability to run all aspects of a business. Judging their looks and industry acumen are some of fashion’s most recognizable and influential names, including Naomi Campbell, Nicole Richie, Joseph Altuzarra, Carine Roitfeld and Chiara Ferragni. The series is executive produced by Sara Rea, Page Feldman, Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn and Jennifer Love, directed by Ramy Romany and produced by Amazon Studios and SKR Productions.

As previously announced, the 12 designers competing for an opportunity of a lifetime are:

Sander Bos, 24, Hasselt, Belgium: Featuring avant-garde inspired looks, Bos is a young designer who runs his namesake line. Raised in a small town in Belgium, he is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and is eager to make his mark on a global scale.

Rinat Brodach, 35, New York City: Brodach was a fan of fashion from an early age while growing up in in Israel and later came to the US to study design. Her eponymous line features a minimalist chic, gender-free aesthetic, reflecting her own straightforward personality. She recently dressed Billy Porter for the Critics’ Choice Awards and her designs have also been worn by Laverne Cox and Adam Lambert.

Ji Won Choi, 26, New York City: The Parson graduate is a designer of elevated, active streetwear that she sells under her namesake brand and has collaborated with Adidas, with pieces worn by Beyoncé and Kendall Jenner. Born in Seoul, South Korea, raised in Oklahoma, and educated in New York City and Paris, her work is a reflection of how Choi sees herself in the world.

Jasmine Chong, 31, New York City: Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Chong is the owner of her self-titled feminine ready-to-wear line, has previously shown at NYFW and her line has been featured in a number of fashion magazines. Inspired by her seamstress grandmother and her fashion designer mother, she is focused on creating beautiful clothing that appeals to all body types.

Jonny Cota, 35, Los Angeles, CA: The self-taught owner of the elevated streetwear brand Skingraft, Cota produces two men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections yearly and has shown five times at New York Fashion Week. In addition, he has dressed celebrities including Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé.

Martha Gottwald, 28, Richmond, VA: The Louisiana native and mother of two is owner of the womenswear brand Neubyrne and has been featured in British Vogue and shown at NYFW. Like Gottwald herself, Neubyrne embraces color and whimsicality. The survivor of a near fatal car accident that taught her about strength and endurance, she is a relatively new designer who was inspired by artisans she met in Singapore.

Troy Hul Arnold, 34, New York City: An adjunct professor at Parsons, Hul Arnold was born in Trinidad and Tobago before coming to the US as a child. His brand, Hul Arnold, features minimalist, avant-garde menswear inspired looks for women; one of his designs was worn by Sarah Jessica Parker on Glee. Hul Arnold takes an artisanal approach to his fashion, and he refers to his pieces as functional sculptures.

Joshua Hupper, 38, Shanghai, China: Founder of BABYGHOST, a wildly successful e-commerce fashion brand based in China, Hupper’s designs have been featured in Vogue and on runways around the world. His line features youthful, feminine ready-to-wear fashions for the “mischievous girl.” Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Hupper’s talents were shaped by his artistic upbringing and internships with Diane Von Furstenburg and Thakoon.

Esther Perbandt, 43, Berlin, Germany: Founder and namesake Esther Perbandt was born and bred in Berlin, toughened up in Moscow and polished in Paris. Owner of her eponymous line, which features edgy, menswear-inspired separates, Perbandt has created more than 30 collections over the brand’s 15 year history and has been running her highly successful boutique in Berlin for ten years. As an artist, she has also collaborated on countless music, film and theatre projects.

Will Riddle, 31, New York City: Riddle’s design skills, featuring a modern take on old glamour, have led to a series of impressive jobs, including Atelier Director at Oscar de la Renta, 3.1 Philip Lim, and now men’s designer at Kith – a far journey from growing up in a trailer park in Ohio. With an impressive resume under his belt, Riddle is ready to start his own label.

Sabato Russo, 64, Milan, Italy: A seasoned designer with a 25-year career in the industry, Russo is owner of the brand Satorial Monk, which focuses on high end simplicity. A former model who is able to speak four languages, Russo has a global point of view that is reflected in his sophisticated, timeless looks. Russo is currently working on his “Made in Italy” line entitled Sabato Russo.

Megan Smith, 38, Los Angeles, CA: Born and raised in Kansas City, KS, Smith first discovered her love of fashion design while creating clothes for her Barbie dolls. After designing private label for several major bands and retailers, Smith branched out and launched her own line “Megan Renee.” The response to her first runway show during Los Angeles Fashion Week was so overwhelming, she launched her online boutique to sell her collections to customers worldwide. Her line features feminine, 70’s inspired cocktail attire.

Making The Cut Social Handles: #MakingtheCut
Twitter: @MakingtheCutTV
Instagram: @MakingtheCutTV

Amazon Prime Video Social Handles:
Twitter: @PrimeVideo
Instagram: @AmazonPrimeVideo

Amazon Fashion Social Handles:
Instagram & Twitter: @AmazonFashion

Making The Cut Talent & Judge Social Handles:
Heidi Klum: Twitter and Instagram @HeidiKlum
Tim Gunn: Twitter and Instagram @TimGunn
Naomi Campbell: Twitter @NaomiCampbell and Instagram @Naomi
Nicole Richie: Twitter and Instagram @NicoleRichie
Carine Roitfeld: Instagram @CarineRoitfeld
Joseph Altuzarra: Instagram @JosephAltuzarra
Chiara Ferragni: Twitter and Instagram @ChiaraFerragni

Victoria’s Secret majority stake sold by L Brands to Sycamore Partners

February 20, 2020

by Daphne Sorenson

Models at the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show (Photo by Heidi Gutman/ABC)

Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands (based in Columbus, Ohio) has sold a 55% stake in Victoria’s Secret to private equity firm Sycamore Partners, for a reported $525 million. L Brands will keep the remaining 45% stake in Victoria’s Secret, which will revert back to being a private company. As part of the restructuring, L Brands chairman/CEO Les Wexner will step down from his position, after founding the company in 1963.

L Brands will continue to have full ownership of Bath & Body Works.  According to the Associated Press: “Sycamore manages a $10 billion portfolio including such struggling retailers as Belk, Hot Topic and Talbots.”

Victoria’s Secret and its Pink spinoff brand have been experiencing a sharp decline in sales in recent years. The $525 million price tag is far lower than the $7.6 billion that Victoria’s Secret was valued at in 2015. The brand’s sales peaked during the 2006-2016 CEO leadership of Sharen Jester Turney, who left the company in 2016.

The sale comes after a turbulent 2019 for Victoria’s Secret and L Brands. In August 2019, more than 100 models and several of their allies (including Models Alliance and Times Up) signed an open letter to Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas to demand an end to the sexual abuse and sexual harassment that has allegedly been running rampant against Victoria’s Secret models.

The letter was published just two days after L Brands chief marketing officer Ed Razek publicly announced he was leaving the company. Wexner and Razek had close ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested again in July 2019, for sex crimes, specifically, for sex trafficking of women and underage girls. Epstein was found dead in his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City on August 10, 2019. According to the Associated Press, he died of an apparent suicide by hanging.

Razek came under fire in 2018, when he said in a Vogue interview that Victoria’s Secret was not interested in hiring plus-sized or transgender models. In August 2019, Victoria’s Secret hired its first transgender model: Valentina Sampaio, who posted the news on her Instagram account. But that milestone was apparently too little, too late.

The open letter blasting Victoria’s Secret was among several blows to the company in 2019.  The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was completely canceled only a few months after it was announced that the show would not be televised anymore.

In addition, about 15% of Victoria’s Secret employees (about 50 people) were laid off in October 2019, the same month that Victoria’s Secret head of stores and store operations April Holt stepped down from her position after 16 years working for the company.

Meanwhile, rival lingerie brands such as Aerie, ThirdLove, Adore Me and Lively have experienced an increase in sales in recent years. Many market analysts have noted that Victoria’s Secret alienated many customers by having only tall and thin models in its marketing, while newer brands embrace a more diverse variety of body sizes in their marketing and in their product selections. In addition, websites that track customer feedback for retailers have noted that there have been numerous complaints about the decreasing quality of Victoria’s Secret products and customer service.