How do you take an American Fashion Institution such as Bill Blass and destroy it in less than 7 years? A house that has flourished and lead the pack for over 30 odd years.
You cash in (Bill did exactly that) and put in place a sketchy designer , hand picked by Blass : Steven Slowick and watch the clients and press turn their backs, enmasse.
When that placebo fails to take, and for Blass' sake he dies, you have a president of a co. who just starts flailing in the dark. Ah ,hell, let's hire that swedish guy , the one that can't keep a job anywhere in Europe.......Lars Nillson. He even hires Lars' alter ego, the one who actually has a tad of talent,Herve Pierre. Herve will go on to do the heavy lifting, though most will unknowingly credit Lars. Word in the back alley is that, yet again, Anna Wintour orchestrates that hire, like EVERY major hire here and across that standing water filled ditch. Vogue declares it a brilliant match but the clients and collective press again find this double dose too prickly to swallow ; Something about it's being too esoteric.
By now the president is grabbing at straws and hires Michael Vollbracht. This match is so spectacularly unsuitable that the clients and press stand with their mouths open like watching a car crash in slow motion. Too awful to turn away , but with the hope that something or someone will survive. Water is rising and a flood is sure to come, but maybe a dam can be built just in time...... Michael works valiantly towards this end but that dam is built on the bones of too many broken promises , broken backs, and too few solid bits of ground. He is smart enough to exit stage left.
Now for the denouement everyone knew must come. The last ditch hire is a long tediously drawn out affair with the pathetic result of Peter Som named Creative Director.This one has a track record that resembles a 3 legged horse entered in the Kentucky Derby. The reasoning for this choice/mistake is that Peter had been an INTERN during the last years of Blass' life. He did a short stint as an assistant designer just before Blass retired. Ironically, he was passed over for Slowick when the position needed filling. So he gets the brass ring! The darkness is so dense it's a wonder that anyone saw anything. Whatever they saw of his first and most likely last collection was a bit of this and not much of that. No one was surprised.
Last week the papers were filled with the collective weakening health of NexCen , the parent company of Blass, Athlete's Foot,etc. I think that Blass was not protected from the fungus that runs rampant in companies like NexCen and is now hopelessly infected. So what does a co. like them do when a limb is gangrenous? Why they do the only selfless thing they can...they cut it off at the knee. Blass which sold for 54million is now on the chopping block for 17million and change. Why not just give it a decent burial and be done with it?
Blass deserved better than he got. Legacy's used to have value, but then again Washington has shown us what a hopelessly out of date sentiment that is.
On the Street…Hugh, Milan
2 days ago