The anticipated era of Peter Som for Bill Blass is officially over (before it really ever began, actually). According to WWD, they have agreed to part ways, ending the designer’s role as creative director of Bill Blass women’s wear. The fallout was speculated months ago.
“This was an extremely difficult decision for me,” Som said. “At this time, however, I have chosen to focus on my own namesake collection and the development of the Peter Som brand.”
Som left when his contract expired a week and a half ago, industry sources said.
His departure wasn’t unexpected. There were rumblings in July that the designer was contemplating an exit. He continued working with NexCen Brands Inc., which owns Blass, to figure out how to proceed with the spring 2008 collection, which eventually was shown to retailers only.
The decision to scrap the September fashion show in Bryant Park was believed to be the last straw for Som, sources said. The designer was said to be upset because NexCen hasn’t been able to financially support the Collection business in the manner that Som had envisioned.
Another problem for Som was that, while NexCen understood franchising and how to manage its quick-service restaurant holdings, the firm “knew very little about how to run a luxury brand, much less rebrand one,” said an industry source familiar to the NexCen operation.
Som succeeded Michael Vollbracht, who is said to have stormed out last year after one too many run-ins with management. Vollbracht joined the company in 2003, replacing Lars Nilsson, another designer who made a hasty retreat. Steven Slowik was the first designer to try to fill the shoes of the company’s namesake, who retired in 1999. Blass, who died in 2002, started his company in 1970.
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