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Fashion in the Family: Oscar Names Alex Bolen Company’s New Chief

Oscar de la Renta is handing over the chief executive title to his son-in-law, Alex Bolen, to allow the designer more time in the design studio.

Their main objective is to bolster volume through sales of the de la Renta collection. The company generates annual sales at retail of $650 million, including licensed products. That also includes about $100 million from its collection business. Resort orders with major vendors such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman are 30 to 40 percent ahead of last year. Bolen was quick to note that the business got a lift after its namesake exited Balmain to focus more on his own collection.

“We are certainly extremely proud of our licensees, but we don’t see ourselves as a licensing company. We want to grow the business from within,” de la Renta said.

Bolen agreed, saying his first task is to bolster sales of the ready-to-wear collection with its bread-and-butter business. “We can expand distribution within existing doors and sell more to Saks, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. We want to expand the collection not only with traditional styles, but to continue to emphasize our day separates business.”

Despite that focus, the company is said to be pursuing a few new categories including more accessories, O Oscar men’s wear and possibly women’s bridge sportswear.

The company is also on the move to open freestanding stores in the U.S., Europe and, eventually, Asia, and is said to be nearing deals for Madison Avenue and Bal Harbour, Fla. Bolen said the aim is to open five to 10 stores in Europe within the next couple of years.

“The concern I have — if you will — is to manage our growth appropriately, not just providing good design, but the quality of our manufacturing and deliveries,” Bolen said.

With their savvy business ways and chiseled good looks, Bolen and his wife have been instrumental in attracting a younger crowd to the label. Like Carolina Herrera, Bill Blass, Badgley Mischka and other members of the Old Guard, de la Renta has made a concerted effort to reach out more to his daughter’s contemporaries. High-profile personalities such as Laura Bush and Nancy Reagan remain among his fans, but the broader customer base seems to be paying off.

This fall, O Oscar, a new moderate line of women’s apparel licensed to the Kellwood Co., bows, as does Rosamor, the designer’s seventh fragrance, and Oscar by Oscar de la Renta outerwear, which is licensed to Fleet Street. The company also is rolling out a greatly expanded line of home furnishings including china, glassware, linens, flatware, mattresses and rugs. Industry sources pegged fall sales for the target of the new scent at more than $10 million at retail in the U.S.
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