Lars Nilsson Fired In Blass Bombshell; Vollbracht in Wings?

Lars Nilsson was dumped as designer of Bill Blass Wednesday, but the firm might already have a successor in the wings: designer Michael Vollbracht.

Hervé and I are not crazy people,” Nilsson said.“The way they made us leave the company,telling us not to touch a computer or to delete anything,was very upsetting.I don ’t have anything to hide.It ’s very sad they do not have more respect for the work that we did.”

Groveman would not discuss the specifics of the events or elaborate on why the designers were let go a day after showing their collection,other than to say,“It ’s never a good time.It was something that we thought we had to do.”

Retail sales of the designer collection year,he said,but sell-throughs were below expectations.The company said a new design team will be announced soon, but Groveman denied there were any candidates under consideration.Asked about reports that Vollbracht might be taking over,he would not comment.

“There are no candidates at this time,”he said.

But the bulk of the company ’s volume — $600 million at retail —comes from licenses for such products as women ’s jeans, men ’s shirts,suits and children ’s wear.

Tomar Magnes,a design assistant; Claudia Marta,the designers ’personal assistant,and Nicolas Caito,who ran their work room,also were let go on Wednesday along with Caito ’s assistant, Nilsson said.

A native of Sweden,Nilsson said he plans to continue designing and will look into several possibilities in New York, but he expressed concerns about his work visa.Despite his complaints over the circumstances of his fate,Nilsson managed to remain somewhat upbeat about the Blass experience,even looking at his firing as a positive because it would open up a world of opportunities. Perhaps that ’s something he learned from Blass himself.

“I’m far too positive,”he said.“I want to look into all of the possibilities, whether it ’s men ’s,women ’s or accessories.But the support that I ’ve had at Blass has been amazing,from working with the stores and the editors.I have tried to really work within the tradition of the house and not do any trash or work that would not be appropriate for Blass.I was getting great feedback from the beginning and I really don ’t understand what Michael ’s vision is for this.”
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