De-Klein: Lagging Sales Force Tyler out as Anne Klein Designer

Article excerpt

IT'S ALL over for Richard Tyler and Anne Klein.

In an abrupt, unexpected announcement, the company said Dec. 19 that "due to differences pertaining to the future design direction," Tyler would no longer create its signature collection.

In fact, the real reason was very simple: Tyler's three collections had failed to perform at the box office.

Rumors were flying that Tyler might be replaced by Patrick Robinson, who only this week resigned from his position as head stylist at the Giorgio Armani Le Collezioni line produced by GFT.

An Anne Klein spokesman declined to comment, and Robinson couldn't be reached.

There were also suggestions that Tyler might be replaced by Michael Kors, but again, Klein officials and Kors declined to comment.

Tyler, the Los Angeles-based designer known for his meticulous tailoring and Hollywood clientele, was hired in May 1993 to rev up the Anne Klein Collection and its licensees, which were fast losing momentum in the stores.

When he took over, the collection reportedly had dwindled to about $20 million to $25 million of Anne Klein's $220 million in volume, including licensed products.

At the time, the company said it was looking for "dramatic growth" on a global level. That didn't happen.

According to retail sources, Tyler's fashion-forward designs and the Anne Klein customer never clicked. His new design direction, coupled with the firm's hard-edged ad campaign, not only alienated the traditional Anne Klein customer, it also didn't attract any new ones.

Ironically, only last month, Tyler was named Womenswear Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America for his signature collection, and he will be feted in January. A year ago he received the New Talent award.

"The separation of Anne Klein and Richard Tyler is effective immediately. The final Tyler-designed Anne Klein Collection is spring 1995," according to the company's statement, which, to the surprise of many, was released by a public-relations firm.

No Anne Klein executive would speak about the matter: Tomio Taki, Frank Mori and Andrew Rosen were all said to be out of the country.

Tyler also declined to comment, but his wife, Lisa Trafficante, told WWD the differences in design directions were "unresolvable."

"He was moving in his own direction, and I can't really say what their direction was," she said.

Trafficante added that Tyler's aim had been to attract a younger customer for Anne Klein, and "I think Richard's collection stands as a testament to that.

"We have reached an agreement that the differences between the design directions were unresolvable. We all know where Richard was headed." She said the decision to part ways wasn't sudden and had been "evolving."

According to sources, Patrick Robinson was interviewed three times at Anne Klein in mid-December.

Robinson, who reportedly left his GFT position two weekends ago, is a friend of former GFT executive Marilyn Kawakami, who is now president of Anne Klein II and A Line.

If Robinson joins Anne Klein, Kawakami is expected to take on a bigger role at the company. And there was even speculation she might take over the Collection, currently headed by Anne Ball.

Kawakami could not be reached for comment, but she reportedly informed the staff of Tyler's departure.

One person who won't be coming back to Anne Klein, however, is Louis Dell'Olio.

"I'm very happy not being part of that mix anymore," he said, when asked for his reaction to the news.

"It's just kind of shocking," said Dell'Olio. "Donna (Karan) and I designed it for 10 years together. I designed it for 10 years on my own. The company was so established. The customer was loyal. It's going nowhere and doesn't have a point of view. It's become so schizophrenic. Something that was so well-established. …