Alexander Bolen, Oscar de la Renta’s chief executive officer, in an
interview with WWD, has announced that the brand will amping up their
footwear and handbag offerings. That is, if he has his way.
Bolen, who is married to Oscar de la Renta’s step daughter Eliza, was the
one who originally told de la Renta to reject a deal he was offered
regarding the purchase of his company. A former investment banker, Bolen
joined Oscar de la Renta in 2003, and in 2004 he was promoted to chief
executive officer. During the early 2000s, the company was still primarily
wholesale, with virtually no free-standing stores.
The idea of free-standing stores was thought of as too much of a challenge
for de la Renta, so he never really explored the idea. Instead, Bolen
influenced the designer to focus more on other high-end market categories,
like handbags and footwear. The business has been largely wholesale driven
by the U.S., but, at an ACG New York Conference on Wednesday, October 21,
2015, Bolen said “For the first time this year, wholesale outside of the
U.S. is better than in the U.S.”
It’s been over a year since the legendary designer passed away, but he left
a very lucrative business in place. Investment firm GF Capital has a
sizable stake in the company, but Bolen has stated that the company is not
looking for any more investors.
In terms of expanding the company’s business, he is currently looking at
stores that focus heavily on shoes and handbags. Of course, this will also
mean shifting their focus to not be so ready-to-wear driven. “Currently the
product mix does well in dense urban, affluent environments where women
dress up for the workplace. If our handbag and shoe business develops more
fully, there are [maybe] 30 to 40 locations we can pursue, but not with the
current 80 percent ready-to-wear mix,” Bolen said to WWD.
The current business plan is to have Oscar de la Renta’s business evenly
divided between Asia, the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East. Bolen has done
an excellent job of preserving de la Renta’s legacy, along with designer
Peter Copping who took over as creative director of the brand after de la
Renta’s unfortunate passing. Copping has put out successful collection
after successful collection, with continuously positive reviews from
publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Elle.
The brand’s days as primarily an evening wear brand seem to be over,
however, as shoes and bags are their top priority category. If their new
categories see as much success as their ready-to-wear, the shoe and handbag
market is about to get a lot more competitive.