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Byline: AMANDA MEADUS
NEW YORK -- The bold changes Richard Tyler has made in Anne Klein's signature collection are starting to show up in some of the licensed accessories lines.
The Anne Klein accessories collection, which traditionally has a strong main-floor presence in department stores, is undergoing at least a partial design transformation, according to several licensees who have been working with Tyler and his team.
This transformation is expected to continue under Robert Forrest, the new creative director of Anne Klein Design Studio, the designer firm's licensing arm, who works closely with Tyler.
As reported, Forrest, formerly a freelance consultant with Anne Klein, was recently named creative director of the Design Studio, following the departure of Burt Wayne, the studio's president, and John Docktor, creative director, both of whom had been with the firm 17 years. Forrest did not return calls to his office.
Of the five Anne Klein accessories licensees, four said they had already met with Forrest at least once each since his appointment. None said they felt their agreements were in jeopardy as a result of the new management. "We don't expect to have any problems as a result of Burt Wayne leaving," said Bernie Fernandez, executive vice president of E. Gluck Corp., Long Island City, N.Y., which holds the licenses for Anne Klein and Anne Klein II fashion watches.
E. Gluck is currently redesigning the line, Fernandez said.
"There will definitely be some changes in design direction," he noted.
"It won't be happening overnight, but for the fourth quarter we will be showing some very new looks in both lines," Fernandez added.
He added that his staff had already met with Forrest four times, and characterized the meetings as "positive."
Oroton U.S., the licensee for Anne Klein and Anne Klein II handbags, belts and small leather goods, has met with Forrest several times and actually started working with Tyler as far back as January, according to Stephen Somers, president of the leather goods firm here.
"The line is dramatically different from a design point of view, in that it's much more fashion-forward and item-driven than it was before," Somers said.
Previously, handbags and belts had been done in tailored styles and traditional leather fabrications, he pointed out. While some of those styles remain in the line, there is now also a strong trend segment that reflects looks Tyler shows in his ready-to-wear.
Tyler, in fact, used some of the most trendy of the bags in his fall runway presentation, Somers noted.
Overall, Somers said he sees Forrest's appointment as a "positive situation. And the publicity that Richard Tyler has been getting has done nothing but help us," he added.
Elaine Gold, owner of Collection XIIX, said she has also met with Forrest and his staff several times. Gold's company produces the Anne Klein scarf line.
"My impression is that they are definitely committed to doing an upscale line, and one that fits in with the tone of their ready-to-wear," Gold noted. Changes in the scarf line have not been necessary, Gold pointed out, since she became a licensee only recently. As reported, Anne Klein ended its agreement with scarf licensee Vera Industries in January, and at that time Wayne cited changes "in vision as a company" as the reason for the collapse of the 16-year-old relationship.
Others licensees said they have felt no impact yet.
"There really isn't a whole lot to say at this point," said Lou Valenti, president of the women's division of Swank Inc., the licensee for Anne Klein fashion jewelry. "We've only had one meeting with the studio since Burt Wayne left, and it's really too soon to say anything, though we might have a lot more to say in a month or so."
Boris Kliot, owner of Riviera, said he hasn't met with any of the new team yet, though he noted that he expects business to continue as usual. His firm does Anne Klein and AKII sunglasses.
"We don't see any reason to be concerned," Kliot said. "As far as we're concerned, our Anne Klein business is as strong as ever in department stores and we view that as our major strength."