According to WWD, NexCen Brands Inc. sold Bill Blass, one of American fashion’s most venerable names, for the paltry sum. The deal (which closed yesterday) shows how far the brand has fallen since its heyday under its legendary founder. The buyer, Peacock International Holdings LLC, beat out a number of other bidders and plans initially to push the brand even further downstream.
The new owner hinted, however, that it could one day fund a return to the runway for Blass — if, that is, it can find a designer who can adequately interpret the brand, which none of its previous owners have been able to do over the last decade.
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Peacock purchased the worldwide rights to the Blass trademark and the Blass licenses already signed. Its Peacock Apparel Group operation is a men’s dress shirts and neckwear specialist.
NexCen at had hoped to sell the brand for more than $25 million, but the company’s financial difficulties and the acquisition freeze brought on by the credit crunch made that target all but impossible to attain.
NexCen paid $54.6 million in cash and stock for the brand in December 2006 and tacked on another $425,000, plus another $950,000 in loan forgiveness, when it acquired Bill Blass Couture, the rtw unit responsible for runway shows, from Michael Groveman and Carly Andrews Inc. in July.
Still, some took the likely move of Blass down-market — and the amount paid — as a disquieting sign. The Blass name has been synonymous with American designer fashion for five decades.
“This is a classic example of an iconic brand that could not withstand the death of its namesake,” said Donald Dolce, senior vice president of Allyn Saint George Licensing & Marketing Co. “If you look at other brands like Chanel, they survived and did well. They were very smart. After several false starts, they hired Karl Lagerfeld.”
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