Hord Teams With Li & Fung for New Lines

NEW YORK — Handbag brands Kathy Van Zeeland and B. Makowsky are making the move into footwear with a team of industry veterans, including former Nine West executive Noel Hord and Via Spiga founding designer Paolo Batacchi.

The B. Makowsky footwear line, which debuted during the FFANY show, is launching for spring ’10. Kathy Van Zeeland is expected to follow for fall.

The moves come on the heels of last year’s $330 million acquisition of New York-based Van Zeeland Inc., which included the Kathy Van Zeeland, B. Makowsky and Tignanello lines, by LF USA, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based global sourcing firm Li & Fung Ltd. Plans for expanding both lines developed quickly after the deal, said Rick Darling, president of LF USA.

The firm tapped Hord — who was Footwear News’ 1994 Person of the Year and has served as president and COO at New York Transit and at BCBG over footwear — and chose Florence, Italy-based Batacchi to head up design efforts of the B. Makowsky collection.

“We’re a new team, [but] we’ve got a deep amount of experience in all categories of the industry,” said Hord, who works alongside Peter Brunelle, SVP of sales and marketing, and Carol Massoni, SVP of merchandising and operations.

For Darling, the group’s expertise was a big selling point. “That was the driving force for us. It was an exceptional opportunity to work with this team,” he said, noting the emphasis on blending design innovation and value. “It’s really going to get the footwear industry to rethink how it’s going to position itself.”

Priced between $89 and $129, the 35-style B. Makowsky collection of leather flats, sandals, heels and booties is being targeted to retailers already carrying the handbags, including Macy’s, Dillard’s, Nordstrom and Zappos.com. Darling said he expects B. Makowsky footwear to be sold in about 400 doors across the U.S. and Canada. The Kathy Van Zeeland shoe line, meanwhile, is expected to retail for $69 to $89.

“We’re in an era where value is a key part of the decision,” said Hord, adding that the B. Makowsky collection could draw customers from the bridge-priced women’s fashion brands. “We’ll reach up and get a customer who is spending $50 to $100 more on footwear [because she] sees the value. That’s a good place to be at this time.”

Zappos, which currently carries more than 100 styles from the B. Makowsky handbag collection, plans to add B. Makowsky footwear with deliveries in the first quarter of 2010, said Mike Normart, senior director of brand development for the e-tailer. Part of the new collection’s appeal, he said, is Batacchi’s eye for artistic and bohemian-influenced design.

“It has its own style,” Normart said, noting the line was a standout during last month’s FFANY show. “There’s a strong attention to detail and it’s little stronger and different than what’s out on the market.”

While Zappos is still working out how many styles to initially take on, Normart said its offering would includes a broad mix from the collection. “We like the whole line,” he said. “[And] when we first launch something, we like to give a good breadth of the [collection].”

Meanwhile, husband-and-wife team Kathy Van Zeeland and Bruce Makowsky, founders of their namesake brands, are continuing to work with LF USA on the collections. Makowsky has been named president of the accessories group, and Van Zeeland is president of Kathy Van Zeeland. (The Kathy Van Zeeland handbag collection, which retails for $89 to $99, launched five years ago, while the B. Makowsky accessories line, priced between $190 and $300, debuted in 2006.)

Plans for both brands, Darling said, include adding lifestyle categories such as jewelry, watches and apparel, and expanding globally. While North America is currently the key distribution target, Darling said the firm also is eyeing expansion in Asia and across Europe, where Kathy Van Zeeland already has a presence.

“It’s about aggressively approaching the market,” he said. “It was our intention to expand both franchises quickly after the acquisition [because] the brands are really resonating with the consumer.”

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