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Sander could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The announcement stunned fashion executives and Sander insiders alike. As they were struggling to make sense of the news, a few small details emerged as to what might have triggered the most recent breakup. Some said it was an inevitable conclusion, given the hardheadedness of both Sander and Bertelli.
“Once a plate is cracked, the fissure is always there,” said Janet Brown, owner of a store in Port Washington, N.Y., who had been trying unsuccessfully for weeks to reach Sander on the designer’s cell phone. Brown said her inability to contact Sander was “very odd.”
Yet others openly admitted that they were caught off guard and thought the partnership was moving forward.
Jeffrey Kalinsky, owner of the Jeffrey stores in New York and Atlanta, said, “This is quite devastating news. I absolutely didn’t see it coming and it saddens me greatly.”
Sander canceled a trip to New York a few weeks ago. At the time, some observers chalked it up to typical last-minute schedule changes. Now, though, those same people speculate whether that marked the beginning of the end.
Despite recurring speculation that there could be frictions once again between the pair, Sander exuded a relaxed and calm aura during the women’s spring-summer 2005 shows in Milan last month. In a WWD interview at that time, she spoke of ambitious plans to grow the accessories business, launch a new fragrance and open stores.
“Maybe when I made the joint venture with Prada, I didn’t take the time to understand whom I was marrying. The more we work together, the more we realize that we are similar. We are both entrepreneurs. We understand how to respect one another,” Sander said of Bertelli.
Bertelli was equally upbeat. “I’m delighted that Jil has made this important decision,” Bertelli said in a statement at the time. “I am sure that she will find in the company the motivation and the resources necessary to enable her to express her ideas and creativity.”