They are retiring, leaving the next phase of Ellen Tracy in the hands of its new owner of 11 months, Liz Claiborne Inc. Gallen and Allard built the company from a manufacturer of unremarkable blouses with a made-up name into a $171 million business that is now the leading department store vendor for the bridge category, and they fell in love along the way. Gallen, who founded Ellen Tracy in 1949, and Allard, who was hired as a designer in 1962, have often referred to their lives as a long story, one with many chapters and each of those reflective of the evolving careers of the customers they dressed.
“This has been an amazing story for us, yet all good stories do come to an end,” Allard said in a statement on Monday.
Gallen, who is 87, had indicated he would retire as chairman in the near future following the sale of the company to Claiborne for $180 million in September 2002, although Allard, 63, had been less specific about her plans as design director. On Monday, the company said both had retired, and the couple had already left en route to their 163-foot yacht, The Mystique, and could not be reached for comment.
“Herb and Linda pioneered the idea that a designer label could also be a sizeable commercial success,” Paul Charron, chairman and chief executive officer of Claiborne, said in the statement. “We will miss them greatly, but they leave us with a terrifically talented team, many of whom have worked alongside of them for the past 20 years.”
Allard fostered an unusual loyalty and dedication among her design staff, although not universally. Charles Nolan designed for the label for more than a decade before joining bridge rival Anne Klein in 2001, where he worked for two years, and Karen Harman, once the well-known designing partner of Dana Buchman, was recruited to the company recently but only lasted a short time.