Liz Claiborne, Narciso Rodriguez part ways

Thu Oct 9, 2008 6:43am EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Apparel and accessories maker Liz Claiborne Inc and designer Narciso Rodriguez said on Wednesday the two have ended their business relationship, 17 months after announcing the partnership.

Narciso Rodriguez will regain full ownership of the trademarks and business bearing his name, while Liz Claiborne will provide some transition services to Rodriguez.

Liz Claiborne Chief Executive William McComb said the company had initially seen opportunities to work together with Rodriguez across different product lines, but that "differences emerged as to how best to achieve this organic growth."

He said the decision to end their agreement was mutual. The company declined to provide additional details or make Rodriguez available for an interview.

But an article in Women's Wear Daily quoted McComb as saying there had been "dramatic changes in the luxury marketplace versus what we expected when we formed the alliance."

In May 2007, Liz acquired a 50 percent ownership stake in the Narciso Rodriguez name and trademarks, and said it would form a new company to develop the brand.

The partnership marked Liz's entry into the luxury designer segment, and Liz, whose brands include Juicy Couture and Kate Spade, was hoping to license the Narciso Rodriguez brand and extend it into accessories.

The divorce does not come as a huge surprise, said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing.

Claiborne has shifted its emphasis to names like Mexx and Lucky Brand, which have retail stores, and it is also not uncommon for large fashion companies to prune their portfolios, she said.   Continued...

<p>A Liz Claiborne hang tag is shown on a woman's blouse in Burbank, California May 13, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>