The Donald Pliner Brand Has Another New Owner

The Donald Pliner brand has another new owner.

Private equity firm Castanea Partners has sold DJP Holdings LLC to Studio H 33. Inc. The latter is helmed by John Hanna, a longtime shoe exec, who joins the Donald Pliner team as CEO.

“I have followed the Donald Pliner brand for decades, and I believe in the power of its heritage and the craftsmanship of the footwear,” Hanna said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to lead the dedicated Pliner team into the future of luxury design for the brand.”

Hanna was most recently CEO of Private Collections Co., where he managed the company’s global fashion and lifestyle operations. He was formerly CEO of Charles David of California and The Fashion House in Los Angeles.

The announcement coincides with the men’s and women’s brand’s 30th anniversary. (The deal took place at the end of last year but was disclosed today.)

According to Hanna, he plans to put a renewed focus on the brand’s DNA that includes a commitment to comfort. Pliner was among the first in the industry to incorporate stretch materials into footwear, which became a signature of the label. “Whether it is fashion or an everyday shoe, it will have a comfort feature,” said Hanna.

The debut collection under Hanna’s direction will deliver at retail in spring 2020 and include three labels. The Donald Pliner Collection – Black Label, will be produced in Italy and Spain, and retail from $300-$600. Next, is the Mainline Collection — White Label, the core of the business. It will be sourced in multiple countries and retail from $200-$400. There’s also Red Label, an opening price point collection targeted at off-price retailers and selling below $200.

Although the company has changed hands, there’s been no interruption of product at retail or online. Hanna noted the brand’s e-commerce business will remain a focus for the company, along with distribution in retail partners including Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s and Von Maur.

Hanna added although the string of Donald Pliner stores has been shuttered, he plans to re-open them down the road. “They will have to be 21st century stores both domestically and internationally,” he said.

There are also plans to expand the brand into the “House of Pliner,” said Hanna, and will include handbags, eyewear and fragrances.

In 2011, founder and designer Donald J. Pliner sold a majority stake in his namesake brand to Castanea Partners, which backed DJP Holdings. As part of the sale, all trademarks and other intellectual property associated with the brand were transferred to Castanea.

Although he had stayed on as creative director, the designer departed the company in 2015 due to creative differences. Pliner then launched two new shoe collections unaffiliated with the brand, which led to a breach-of-contract and trademark infringement suit filed in August 2016 by DJP Holdings.

The dispute was settled five months later, with the Pliners (including the designer’s wife, Lisa) ultimately agreeing not to use their own names or likenesses in connection with the sale, production or marketing of any fashion or lifestyle goods.

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