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  • How “Liz Claiborne,” became Liz Claiborne

    How We Broke the Rules and Built the Largest Fashion Company in the World.

    Jerome Chazen, a founder and former chairman of Liz Claiborne, Inc., recently wrote a book titled, My Life at Liz Claiborne: How We Broke the Rules and Built the Largest Fashion Company in the World. Indeed, Liz Claiborne — now known as Fifth & Pacific Cos. — grew from revenues of $7 million in 1977 to more than $2 billion during Chazen’s┬átenure. It was named a Fortune 500 Company in 1986 and listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1991. Knowledge@Wharton asked Chazen, who stepped down as CEO in 1996, to discuss the highs and lows of running a successful fashion business in a highly competitive industry.

    Below is an edited transcript of the conversation.

    Knowledge@Wharton: Jerome Chazen, thank you for speaking with us. In your book, and indeed in the title of your book, you talk about breaking the rules of running a business. What rules did you break?

    Jerome Chazen: We broke a lot of rules. When we started our company, we [were] determined to distribute the merchandise primarily through department stores. That was largely due to my background in [this area] and to just thinking that this was the right way to go.

    The department stores at that time — in 1976 — did not have any [way] to handle coordinated separates. As a matter of fact, there were no coordinated separates in the market. We initiated that type of clothing…. The department stores didn’t have a place to put our merchandise. They were set up so that they had a separate blouse department and they had a skirt department and they had a sweater department and so on, none of which were coordinated, all of which were bought by separate buyers.

    Aside from not having a space on the floor for coordinated separates, they didn’t have a buyer who was capable of buying them. We had to get them over that. We had to break that rule of, “This is the way we do business in our store.” We said, “Well, this is the way we do business, and I think you’re going to have to accommodate us.” We did get a few [takers]. It sounds a little arrogant; it wasn’t. It was a lot of begging and pleading that went along with it. But we did get some stores to agree to at least test the concept. It was extremely successful. The consumers loved it.

    Once that happened, the word got around very quickly in the retail world, and shortly thereafter, the momentum of our growth started. We went through a period of a number of years where our biggest problem was producing enough merchandise. But we had to get it started.

    Read Full Article in Knowledge@Wharton.com

    Good luck.

    Calvin Wilson
    Founder and CEO
    Upstart: Business and Management for 20-40 Year Old Professionals
    calvin.wilson1@verizon.net
    http://twitter.com/Upstart__Nation

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