Escada returns to runway with 40th anniversary show by new designer
Fashion likes nothing more than a designer debut, especially one that coincides with the relaunch of a storied house.
Hence, expectations were high when scores of editors and It Girls gathered at the Uptown Armory on Park Avenue for the first show by Northern Irishman Niall Sloan for the storied German fashion house Escada, which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary.
In the event, they witnessed a highly succinct fashion statement that referenced multiple codes of the Escada aesthetic, even as it updated them with more fluid modern materials and easy sportswear for today.
To many people’s mothers, Escada reached its epoch 25 years ago when its power-shoulder silhouette was synonymous with Joan Collins, Princess Diana and Kim Basinger, who picked up an Oscar in an Escada dress.
Launched by the husband-and-wife team of Margaretha and Wolfgang Ley, a beautiful former Swedish model and an affable, though hard-charging German businessman, Escada witnessed incredibly rapid growth in its first decade, powered by Margaretha’s bold use of primary colours, decidedly feminine shapes and ornate embellishment. Her death from cancer aged 56 in 1992 robbed German fashion of one of its greatest icons.
In 2009, Lakshmi Mittal, the London-based Indian billionaire acquired Escada, reportedly for around 70 million euros, months after the house filed for insolvency in a Munich court. Commercially the brand has been put on a stronger footing, nonetheless, in the past several years, Escada has rather drifted, becoming a distant echo of early fame. That’s until the appointment in September 2016 as CEO of Iris Epple-Righi, an experienced executive from Calvin Klein. And the arrival of Sloan six months later, after working closely with Christopher Bailey at Burberry, and a stint at fellow UK brand Hunter.
The new Global Design Director certainly embraced plenty of colour; opening with a fuchsia pencil skirt and volume shoulder bumblebee yellow jacket with larger golden buttons. He sent out snazzy trenches in an archive print of huge lettering; candy coloured crepe de chine floral cocktails; and multiple versions of the house’s career girl Dynasty mega shoulder blazers.
But since Sloan is a canny cutter and a talented colourist, the look didn’t look dated. Throw in a whole series of equestrian print blouses and dresses – the name Escada came from a beautiful racehorse Magaretha and Wolfgang once admired at a racetrack – and you had an impressive start by Sloan. Plenty of merchandise to fill the shelves in Escada’s extensive store network.
“It’s about a confident woman, who is not afraid to embrace colour yet wants an easy modern wardrobe,” said Sloan.
Escada boasts some 250 stores, between its own boutiques, franchises and shop-in-shops; plus a further 500 sales points in department stores and specialty stores.
“Our sales are balanced between Europe, Asia, especially Japan and North American, which is a very strong market for us, which is why we wanted to celebrate our anniversary here,” said CEO Epple-Righi.
Escada does not reveal revenue figures, but current sales are estimated at over 300 million euros, i.e. some four times the acquisition price paid by the Mittals.
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