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By Alexandria Sage and Nicole Maestri
LOS ANGELES Jan 15 Apparel maker Liz Claiborne
Inc LIZ.N stole Isaac Mizrahi away from Target Corp (TGT.N)
on Tuesday, naming the designer creative director of its Liz
Claiborne brand in a move that ends Mizrahi's five-year deal
with the mass-market chain.
The apparel company said it hired Mizrahi to help
"revitalize" the Liz Claiborne brand, its traditional women's
sportswear line that has faced sluggish sales in recent years
amid a tired image and competition from private-label brands.
The move is a blow to Target, whose collaboration with
Mizrahi pioneered the concept of designer fashion at mass-
market retail chains, one that has been copied extensively by
At Liz Claiborne, Mizrahi will oversee the design and
marketing functions for women's apparel, accessories and
licensing. His first collection for the brand will arrive in
stores in spring of 2009, the company said.
Mizrahi's apparel, accessory and shoe designs have been
sold at Target since 2003. His Target collection will be
available through the end of 2008.
It was not immediately clear how the loss of the well-known
Mizrahi would affect the bottom line at Target.
"We just remain confident that we'll continue to drive
sales and make great design affordable through our combination
of own brands, signature national brands and our other design
fashions," a Target spokeswoman said.
But retail analyst Joseph Feldman of Telsey Advisory Group
was less positive.
"I don't think it comes at a very good time, given that
their sales have been under pressure and there has been some
concern about the strength of their apparel business," Feldman
Target's apparel, which once delighted shoppers, struggled
during the crucial holiday season. In recent months, shoppers
at the discount retailer have passed over discretionary
purchases such as apparel and home decor in favor of basics
such as food and health care items.
HOPING BIG NAMES BRING BUZZ
It was the second announced hiring this week of a noted
designer by Liz Claiborne, which is seeking to move from a
wholesaler of traditional women's sportswear to a high-growth
retailer of trendy apparel and handbags.
The company is shedding its underperforming brands to focus
on a handful of younger brands such as Kate Spade and Juicy
On Monday, it hired designer John Bartlett, who has had
runway shows at New York's Fashion Week, to design a revamped
men's sportswear line to hit stores by spring 2009.
Liz Claiborne's hiring of Mizrahi is part of a recent trend
in the apparel industry in which manufacturers and retailers
tap well-known fashion names, hoping to generate excitement for
Early last year, Liz Claiborne named Tim Gunn, host of
television's "Project Runway" as its chief creative director,
with a mandate to attract and develop creative talent.
Gap Inc (GPS.N), one of the world's largest apparel
retailers, named New York designer Todd Oldham as the design
creative director for its struggling Old Navy chain last
Rival retailer Kohl's Corp (KSS.N) tapped Vera Wang, best
known for her bridal designs, for an exclusive clothing line,
while H&M, the fashion chain from Sweden's Hennes & Mauritz AB
HMb.SF, has featured collections by designers Roberto
Cavalli, Stella McCartney, Viktor & Rolf and Karl Lagerfeld.
(Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Additional reporting by Karen
Jacobs; Editing by Andre Grenon)