QVC has been boasting about Liz Claiborne’s line coming to the network, and keeps extolling the designer it brought over from there. But maybe it shouldn’t be, if you believe a Page One story in The Wall Street Journal Monday
Headlined “Targeting Younger Buyers, Liz Claiborne Hits A Snag,” the piece chronicles the missteps of Liz Claiborne CEO William McComb. Once the top vendor in U.S. department stores, as of this month Liz Claiborne will now only be available at JC Penney and QVC after a falling out with its top client, Macy’s.
We wrote about this deal when it was announced last year. Ironically, The Journal doesn’t even mention the QVC part of the pact.
And the story is rather damning when it comes to Mizrahi, who is now QVC’s in-house lifestyle designer, doing everything from clothes to accessories to housewares and bedding.
The Journal blames Mizrahi with putting the final nail in the coffin of McComb’s and Liz Claiborne’s rocky relationship with its most important customer, Macy’s.
“In an effort to attract a younger audience, Mr. McComb decided to focus on the company’s contemporary brands with the most potential, including Juicy Couture, Kate Spade, Lucky Brand Jeans and Mexx,” The Journal wrote.
“But he made a series of strategic blunders including hiring a star designer, Isaac Mizrahi, at a hefty salary and veering away from the Liz Claiborne brand’s trademark career apparel. He sold, discontinued or licensed several boomer brands—including Ellen Tracy, Dana Buchman and Sigrid Olsen—that weren’t performing well but represented major sales volume.”
A Columbia Business school prof tells the financial broadsheet that this realignment was “a disaster waiting to happen.”
McComb hired Mizrahi away from Target in 2008 as part of his effort to relanch the Liz Claiborne Line.
Mizrahi got a nice package, The Journal reported: a five-year contract worth $6 million a year; his entire 25-person design team came with him; and Claiborne agreed to foot the bill for fashion shows for Mizrahi’s personal high-end brand for roughly $1 million a season.
Macy’s executives expressed concern that Mizrahi’s funky designs wouldn’t appeal to Liz Claiborne’s core customers, working women, and it was right.
“Mr. Mizrahi’s designs hit stores in January 2009, generating media buzz and positive reviews from fashion critics,” The Journal wrote. “Michelle Obama was photographed in one of his outfits and Vogue ran a profile of Mr. Mizrahi.”
But the line flopped, shunned by Claiborne’s regular customers and hindered by the recession.
Macy’s dumped the line, and last October McComb announced Liz Claiborne’s exclusive deal with QVC and JC Penney, as well as Mizrahi’s move to QVC.
Mizrahi declined to comment for The Journal piece.
As we’ve said before, we loved Mizrahi’s Target clothes. At QVC, he’s lost his mojo. He really disappointed us.