With all the designer musical chairs going on in the fashion industry latetly, we've gotten pretty used to company-wide upheavals--but the latest shake-up to go down, this time at Bill Blass, is truly a doozy.
According to WWD, Bill Blass Limited (owned since 2008 by Peacock International Holdings) dismissed women's designer Jeffrey Monteiro last Thursday, and then proceeded to fire all of Monteiro's nine-person design team.
Apparently, Scott Patti, president of the Bill Blass Group, first told staffers that the upcoming fashion show, slated to take place during New York fashion week as usual, would be canceled and the womenswear collection would not go forward. Then, according to one former Blass employee, Patti handed out pink slips one by one and told employees they were "free to go." He did not offer an explanation or mention if there would be a severance package. So, basically, it sounds like every employees' worst nightmare.
While there were some warning signs--WWD reports that the company had recently hired a consultant to look at the business' viability, and recently they opted to not to invest in new fabric to refill orders instead working with what they already had--the lay offs come as quite a shock. Especially since, according to a former employee, the spring 2013 collection was 90% finished with $250,000 worth of Italian fabrics in the company's Fifth Avenue offices, and the stylist for the Spring 2013 show, Japanese Vogue fashion director George Cortina, had already been paid in full.
Here's the thing though: Bill Blass has been here before. After Peter Som left the company in 2008, reportedly because the label's former owner NexCen couldn't financially support the label in the way he envisioned, the company laid off 60-plus employees without severance. Shortly afterward the company was bought by Peacock Holdings, but they were forced to file for bankruptcy due to the debt incurred by the previous owner. Ouch.
While the company eventually got back on its feet, hiring Monteiro as creative director, the future has clearly always been shaky. We bet the Bill Blass execs are getting a serious (and unwelcome) case of deja vu.
We've reached out to Bill Blass's PR company for comment and will update when we hear back.