Stuart Goldblatt to Relaunch Bill Blass

by Harry Sheff

Stuart GoldblattBill Blass Group, LLC has named Stuart Goldblatt as its new president and chief operating officer and announced a relaunch for the brand scheduled for the spring 2016 season.

“Bill Blass was a true original, a giant of the fashion industry and the first American designer,” said Goldblatt in a statement. “He inspired consumers with his sense of timeless glamour and impeccable tailoring, while setting a high standard for personal style and taste that many top designers still aspire to. I am incredibly honored to have the opportunity to build on this rich legacy and heritage to help reimagine the Bill Blass brand for the future.”

Goldblatt spent 15 years at the Macy’s Merchandising Group as EVP, working mostly on private brands for menswear and children’s. He left Macy’s in March this year. He’s also worked for Carson Pirie Scott, Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor.

The Bill Blass brand has been through several owners and relaunches since the designer sold his company in 1999. Peter Kim and his brother Cin Kim, owners of shirt and tie maker Peacock Apparel Group, acquired Bill Blass from NexCen in December 2008 for $10 million, a fraction of the $54 million it paid in 2006. Former Peacock EVP Scott Patti was named president of the new Bill Blass Group in 2009. Things got rough again in 2012 when Patti canceled the spring 2013 women’s wear runway show at the last minute and abruptly laid off designer Jeffrey Monteiro and his staff. While some licenses still exist, Bill Blass Group has been relatively quiet for the last couple years.

Designer Bill Blass started his label in 1970 after twenty years designing for other brands. His business grew to more than half a billion dollars at its peak. Blass sold his company to his CFO, Michael Groveman, and Haresh Tharani, their biggest licensee, in 1999. The designer died in 2002. Under Groveman and Tharani, there was a long succession of (mostly women’s wear) designers, including Steven Slowik, Lars Nilsson (and Yvonne Miller, who designed an emergency collection to use if Nilsson’s wasn’t well received) and Michael Vollbracht. In 2006, NexCen bought Bill Blass for $54 million. NexCen brought on Peter Som to design women’s wear and Michael Bastian for menswear. But by late 2008, the business began to unravel, with NexCen laying off most of the staff before its Bill Blass Ltd. business filed for Chapter Seven liquidation.

Goldblatt’s plans are uncertain at this early stage but it’s clear there will be many decisions to make: whether to name a designer, what to license and how to position the brand both for consumers and retailers.

“To set the stage for the transformation, relaunch and long-term growth of the brand, Bill Blass Group has worked successfully to simplify legacy licenses and to consolidate and take full control of all of its intellectual property and trademarks globally,” Goldblatt said.