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Habitual had been on Rosen's radar as a contemporary label that sometimes sat alongside Theory, and he took particular interest in the Colovoses after finding out in March that they were parting with the brand they founded. The two split with Habitual and its holding company, Pacific Marketing Works, earlier this year, though they declined on Friday to disclose reasons for their departure.
The couple founded Habitual in 2002 after meeting a year earlier. Michael Colovos was raised near Seattle, and studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology before moving to Europe, where he eventually landed in the Paris design studios of Guy Laroche. He returned to New York, and in 1998 launched Colovos, a contemporary women's collection he sold to Barneys New York, Linda Dresner and Fred Segal. Nicole Colovos was born in Auckland, New Zealand, and worked in Sydney at Elle magazine before coming to New York in 1997 to work as a freelance stylist, eventually finding her way to Harper's Bazaar, where she was hired as senior market editor.
Habitual made its mark with cool skinny jeans, and the designers expanded the line into multiple classifications in the contemporary zone, including men's wear, handbags, belts, shoes, maternity clothes and children's items. Market sources pegged the brand's annual volume at about $5 million. The designers were runners-up at the first CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund.
"I wanted somebody with integrity and experience," Rosen said. "Nicole and Michael have a cool aesthetic. They have been in New York and in California and have a global perspective on fashion. Their aesthetic vision matches the heritage of the label Helmut Lang and what its future will be.
"A lot of people I have much regard for hold Nicole and Michael in high esteem," he added.
"I see this as a big opportunity that is not limited to a price point," Rosen continued. "There will be inexpensive and expensive pieces. The customer who buys designer and less-expensive clothes converges in the contemporary area. The contemporary business is where the customer is shopping."
He explained that, for the most part, the contemporary business is an item business, with various players known for the best jeans, best jackets or tops, or dresses, for instance. "Helmut Lang is an opportunity to develop more of a collection concept," he said.