On the heels of an array of retail bankruptcy filings that began to unfold over the course of the year in 2016, New York-based designer Bibhu Mohapatra and retailers The Limited, Wet Seal, and Payless all made headlines when they filed for Chapter 11 protection in early 2017. They were swiftly followed by a handful of additional filings by other retailers, signaling that there is no end in sight to the constant string of fashion and other retail companies struggling financially and looking to bankruptcies courts for protection from their creditors.
For the uninitiated, Chapter 11 bankruptcy – one of the most commonly utilized forms of bankruptcy – allows a company to continue operating while it executes a reorganization plan. Chapter 11 can take a number of forms, but in short: A chapter 11 case begins with the filing of a petition with the bankruptcy court by the debtor (the entity that owes the debt – aka the retailers in the cases at hand). This is followed by the debtor proposing and executing a reorganization plan, which may be used to compromise or even eliminate certain classes of debt.
All the while, the debtor usually remains in possession of his assets and continues to operate any business, subject to the oversight of the court and the creditors committee. Typically, a company that has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy trying to stay in business, and as indicated below, this complex proceeding can be very effective in solving short term business problems in an otherwise viable company or winding down a company with valuable assets.
Fashion and Retail-Related Bankruptcies
Here is a look at some of the most recent fashion-related filings, as well as some significant ones dating back a bit further.
May 2020 – DVF Studio U.K.
Designer Diane Von Furstenberg’s British business has entered into administration (the British equivalent to U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings), citing mounting losses and “substantial doubt” as to the status of its subsidiary. While the American operations of the nearly 50-year old brand remain in tact, finance director Andrew Stoke told the Sunday Times that DVF was “resetting its business model” in the United Kingdom as a result of the pandemic.
May 2020 – Lulu Guinness
British accessories brand filed for bankruptcy in England, according to WWD, the 31-year old, London-based brand was expected to receive a year’s worth of funding, but when the COVID-19 virus hit, the funding fell through, prompting the company to seek bankruptcy protection. Almost immediately after the filing, “a group of existing shareholders, including Guinness, herself, repurchased the assets with plans to push ahead.”
“We were in a great place before COVID hit, a much leaner and more efficient company,” chairman James McArthur said of the brand, which generated $12.22 million in revenue for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2019, with losses of more than $632,000. “But without that funding, we couldn’t move forward. Now, we’re ready to power forward.”
May 2020 – J.C. Penney
J.C. Penney Co. filed for bankruptcy protection on May 15, revealing plans to permanently close some stores and explore a potential sale. According to Reuters, the 107-year old U.S. department store chain, which is “known for selling family apparel, cosmetics and jewelry at some 850 locations across the U.S., said it reached an agreement with existing lenders for $900 million of debtor-in-possession financing to aid operations while it navigates bankruptcy proceedings in federal court in Corpus Christi, Texas.” The retailer, which revealed in its filing that it has approximately $500 million in cash on hand, said it has commitments for $900 million in financing from its existing first lien lenders to fund bankruptcy.
The company’s CEO Jill Soltau said in a statement in connection with the filing, “The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for our families, our loved ones, our communities, and our country. As a result, the American retail industry has experienced a profoundly different new reality, requiring JCPenney to make difficult decisions in running our business to protect the safety of our associates and customers and the future of our company.”
May 2020 – Neiman Marcus Group
On the heels of reports that a filing was coming, Neiman Marcus Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on May 7. Neiman Marcus Group was pin-pointed as likely to resort to Chapter 11 protection given that “the debt-laden Dallas-based company has been left with few options after the pandemic forced it to temporarily shut all 43 of its Neiman Marcus locations, roughly two dozen Last Call stores and its two Bergdorf Goodman stores in New York,” according to CNBC.
In connection with Thursday’s filing in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston, Texas, Neiman Marcus says that it is aiming to eliminate $4 billion of its more-than-$5 billion in debt. The retailer revealed that it has obtained support from “a significant majority of its creditors to undergo a financial restructuring, substantially reducing its debt load and interest payments and supporting continued operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”
May 2020 – ALDO Group
Canadian footwear and accessory retailer ALDO Group Inc. said on May 7 that it has filed for protection from creditors in Canada and the U.S. with plans to restructure and stabilize its business. The Montreal-based company said it filed for protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, which the Wall Street Journal likens to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code’s Chapter 11 (although Aldo claims it is more akin to Chapter 15), and that it has voluntarily applied for similar protection in the U.S. and is about to do so in Switzerland. The company says it “will work to complete its restructuring in a timely fashion and hopes to exit from the process as soon as possible and better positioned for long term growth.”
CEO David Bensadoun said: “ALDO is one of the world’s leading fashion footwear and accessory brands with a solid track record of growth and profitability for almost half a century. It is no secret that the retail industry has experienced rapid and significant change over the last several years. We were making strong progress with the transformation of our business to tackle these challenges; however, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has put too much pressure on our business and our cash flows. After conducting an exhaustive review of strategic alternatives, we determined that filing is in ALDO’s best interest to preserve the Company for the long term and survive through this challenging period.”
May 2020 – John Varvatos
New York-headquartered fashion company John Varvatos announced on May 6 that it has reached agreements with an affiliate of Lion Capital LLP, an existing investor, under which the company will sell its business to Lion “in order to ensure the business’s long-term success.” To facilitate this transaction, John Varvatos Enterprises and certain of its affiliates filed voluntary petitions for Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.
The brand, which lists assets of as much as $50 million and liabilities of at least $100 million, stated that the sale to the Lion Capital affiliate “will be subject to approval of the bankruptcy court and may include a court-supervised auction in which other bidders may offer a higher price for the company’s assets.” However, “Lion remains confident in the long-term potential of the company’s business to be operated as a going concern in the future and has additionally committed to provide, subject to court approval, debtor-in-possession financing, which, when combined with the company’s projected cash flows, is expected to support its operations during the restructuring process.”
May 2020 – J.Hilburn
Custom menswear brand J.Hilburn filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Dallas, listing assets of less than $10 million, and liabilities that top $10 million, with more than half of that debt due to its suppliers. The 13-year old company, which was founded by former equity research analyst Hil Davis and M&A analyst Veeral Rathod, attracted venture investment, as much as $13.8 million in 2012, after raising $12.25 million in rounds between 2008 and 2011, the majority of which came from Boston-based Battery Ventures.
In a statement this week, the company’s CEO David DeFeo said, “J.Hilburn has a loyal client base. We believe in our stylists, in the growth potential of the men’s custom market, and in the ability of our management team to lead the company to future success.”
May 2020 – J. Crew
On the heels of reports that J. Crew would be one of the first major retail bankruptcies of the COVID-19 crisis, the New York-headquartered apparel company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with a bankruptcy court in the Eastern District of Virginia. The company cited assets and liabilities at between $1 billion and $10 billion, and revealed that it had reached a deal with its lenders to convert about $1.65 billion of debt into equity. “We will continue all day-to-day operations,” according to J.Crew Group CEO Jan Singer.
April 2020 – True Religion (Round 2)
After filing to Chapter 11 bankruptcy back in July 2017, listing assets and liabilities in the range of $100 million to $500 million, True Religion filed for a second time this month, citing the same level of assets and debts in its April 13 court filing, and asserting that although it wanted to wait out the COVID-19 crisis, it “simply could not afford to do so.” In the near term, and “until our stores open up, we will be continuing as we have, to run our e-commerce businesses, in the same way we did prior to filing for Chapter 11,” CEO Michael Buckley said in a statement.
The California-based denim-maker, which saw its heyday in the mid-to-late 2000s, exited from bankruptcy in 2017 “in a matter of four months, after shedding over $350 million in debt, closing stores and investing in e-commerce,” per Forbes, which noted that the company’s jeans “have fallen out of favor in recent years amidst increased competition from lower-cost brands like Levi Strauss and Madewell, as well as a boom in athleisure.”
September 2019 – Forever 21
After months of growing speculation, Forever 21 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on September 29. The 35-year old retailer – which helped pioneer the early wave of fast fashion, bringing trendy, runway-inspired garments and accessories to consumers for cheap – said “the restructuring will allow it to focus on the profitable core part of its operations,” while closing to 178 of its 800 existing outposts, including some across the U.S. and most of its stores in Asia and Europe.
August 2019 – Barneys New York
In light of increasing speculation, upscale department store Barneys filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on August 6 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, “and put itself up for sale after facing soaring rents and failing in its earlier attempts to find a buyer for the cash-strapped retailer,” per Reuters. The New York-headquartered chain “secured $75 million in new financing from affiliates of Hilco Global and the Gordon Brothers Group to help it keep operating as it navigates the bankruptcy court,” but says it will shutter 15 of its current locations, including those in Chicago, Las Vegas and Seattle, “along with five smaller concept stores and seven Barneys Warehouse locations.” Barneys listed assets and liabilities in the range of $100 million to $500 million.
According to CNBC, This is “the second time that Barneys has landed in bankruptcy court. Its first filing came in 1996, after a squabble with its Japanese owner, department store company Isetan. The filing was in part a move to renegotiate its deal with Isetan, as well as cope with what it viewed as excessive rent.”
July 2019 – Sonia Rykiel
Sonia Rykiel has been forced into liquidation, following a decision from a Paris commercial court. Despite a string of extended deadlines during which time the court received bids for the brand, whose eponymous founder died in 2017, came up short after entering into receivership – the French equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. – this spring. In April, First Heritage Brands, Sonia Rykiel’s parent company, sought court protection against creditors during its search for new ownership, which ultimately never came into fruition.
Without a buyer, as the court rejected a single unnamed bidder, and following a layoffs and store closures earlier this year, including in the U.S., the brand will now liquidate its existing operations entirely.
April 2019 – Roberto Cavalli
Roberto Cavalli filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in a New York court to protect it from more than 200 outstanding creditors as it liquidates its U.S. arm. According to its filing, which is dated April 4, 2019, Cavalli states, “Due to severe liquidity constraints, the company is unable to pay its debts, including ordinary operating expenses, as they come due.” The American arm of the Italian design house closed all U.S. stores and is preparing to liquidate its North American operations, while its European activities are slated to continue as usual.
NOW: An Italian court court approved the sale of troubled Italian fashion group Roberto Cavalli to real estate developer Damac in July 2019. Dubai-based Damac has acquired 100 percent of Roberto Cavalli SpA. for an undisclosed amount.
March 2019 – Pretty Green
Pretty Green, the fashion retailer founded by the former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher, has been placed into administration, which is loosely equivalent to the U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. According to the Guardian, reps for the brand say they hope to find a buyer to save the business, which was founded by Gallagher in 2009. Pretty Green, which has 12 standalone stores, 40 concessions and a wholesale business, ” will continue trading until further notice.”
March 2019 – Diesel
The American arm of Italian apparel brand Diesel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors. Its privately-held Breganze-based parent company, which was founded by Adriano Goldschmied and Renzo Rosso in 1978, is not part of the filing. Diesel USA’s Chief Restructuring Officer Mark Samson told Reuters that “Diesel USA has no plans to close, but intends to exit some of its 28 stores.” Moreover, he said the company’s three-year business plan contemplates focusing on more profitable stores, improving its product lines and working with social media “influencers” to attract Millennials, “Generation Z” and other new customers.
February 2019 – Charlotte Russe
Charlotte Russe filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection over the weekend and revealed plans to close almost 100 stores in malls across the country. The teenage-focused apparel company, which was founded in 1975 in San Diego, California, said it will use the bankruptcy proceedings to sell its certain assets and that it’s received a commitment of $50 million in financing, according to a press release Monday.
November 2018 – David’s Bridal
David’s Bridal Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcyin U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, citing $500 million in debut, compared to its $100 million-plus in assets. According to Bloomberg, “The court-supervised restructuring allows the business to keep operating, and thus avoid the calamitous and sometimes tearful impact on brides that often accompanies the collapse of wedding retailers.”
NOW: As of mid-January 2019, the bridal retailer announced that it had emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is poised for long-term growth. The Pennsylvania-based company confirmed that it has successfully completed its financial restructuring without closing any of its 300 stores. According to Chron.com, “The company said it planned to lure back customers by offering more affordable dresses in a wider assortment of sizes, both in-store and online. The retailer also said it would host special events with top wedding experts at its stores nationwide to help brides plan their weddings.”
June 2018 – J. Mendel
New York-based brand J.Mendel, which has been in and out of court over the past year battling over outstanding bills, filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. bankruptcy court in New York. “Restructuring the company’s debts will allow J.Mendel to face the current challenging luxury retail environment, and I am confident that this will allow the company to move forward with renewed financial stability, allowing us to focus on crafting the best designs for our devoted clientele,” said John Georgiades of Stallion Inc., J.Mendel’s controlling investor.
May 2018 – Carven
Carven and its parent company, Société Béranger, have filed a voluntary petition with the Commercial Court in Paris in a preceding that mirrors Chapter 11 bankruptcy, in order to remain in business, while it reorganizes and establishes a plan to pay off its creditors. As a result of its filing in French court, Carven has been “put into receivership,” a legal proceeding in which companies are placed into the responsibility of a legally-appointed individual, who acts as custodian of its assets and/or business operations. Carven is looking for a buyer.
May 2018 – Rockport Group
Footwear group Rockport has filed for Chapter 11 protection. Newton, Massachusetts-based Rockport Group will sell its assets to private equity group Charlesbank under a bankruptcy plan as the shoemaker struggles to compete in a tougher retail market. With brands that include Aravon, Dunham and Rockport, the group says it will maintain operations through the sale process to stalking horse bidder Charlesbank. Rockport was founded in 1971 as The Rockport Co. and eventually became part of Adidas before being sold again.
April 2018 – Nine West
U.S. footwear and apparel company Nine West Holdings Inc filed for bankruptcy and said it will sell its Nine West and Bandolino footwear and handbag business to Authentic Brands Group. Nine West, which owns brands such as Anne Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt, said it had received $300 million in debtor-in-possession financing and had entered a restructuring agreement.
Update (June 11, 2018): Authentic Brands Group LLC, which owns Juicy Couture, Judith Leiber, Herve Leger, and Nautical, among other brands, has reportedly won the auction for the intellectual property of bankrupt U.S. shoe and accessories company Nine West Holdings Inc with a revised bid of about $350 million.
March 2018 – Claire’s Stores
Claire’s Stores Inc. filed its long-awaited Chapter 11 petition for bankruptcy court protection. The classic mall store, which says it has pierced more than 100 million ears around the world, reached a restructuring agreement with its creditors. In a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing on Monday, Claire’s said it will reduce its debt by $1.9 billion. It held $2.1 billion in debt at the end of 2017.
February 2018 – Charlotte Olympia
Accessories brand Charlotte Olympia has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware bankruptcy court. Founded in 2007 by Charlotte Olympia Dellal, the brand has “an estimated the value of their assets at $3.26 million, dwarfed by liabilities of $19.2 million,” per Footwear News. In a declaration filed with the courts, chief restructuring officer William Kaye said Charlotte Olympia’s U.S. outposts — consisting of four locations in New York, California, and Nevada — had historically been unprofitable. Through bankruptcy, the brand plans to liquidate inventory and close all stores.
December 2017 – Charming Charlie
Fashion jewelry chain Charming Charlie filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and entered into a restructuring agreement with lenders and equity sponsors. The retailer said it had secured $20 million in debtor-in-possession financing from a majority of its existing term loan lenders and entered into a $35 million asset backed loan with current lenders.
November 2017 – Styles for Less
Styles for Less filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, hoping to avoid the rapidly expanding graveyard of mall retailers as the internet wreaks havoc. The company, known to many of its fans as Styles, filed for court protection from its creditors in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Central District of California. Anaheim, Calif.-based Styles cited a range of $10 million to $50 million in assets and the same range of liabilities.
September 2017 – Aerosoles
Women’s shoe retailer Aerosoles Group has confirmed that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, listing assets of $10 million to $50 million and liabilities of $100 million to $500 million. Aerosoles’ holding company AGI HoldCo Inc said it would continue to manage its stores and operate its businesses as “debtors in possession” and will significantly reduce the number of stores as part of the restructuring in an effort to realign the business with the changing marketplace environment.
August 2017 – Perfumania
Mall-based retailer chain Perfumania Holdings Inc. has sought chapter 11 protection with plans to reorganize around its better-performing stores. “Unlike many retailers who have filed for bankruptcy, Perfumania sees a viable path forward,” Chief Executive Michael Katz said in court papers filed Saturday.
July 2017 – Alfred Angelo
The major bridal dress chain abruptly closed an array of its stores in July leaving brides and bridesmaids dress-less, panicked, and in limbo. Alfred Angelo – a Florida-based company that stocks at nearly 1,400 boutiques across the U.S. and internationally, including self-owned and operates stores in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami, and D.C. – has since confirmed the store closures and that it has filed for bankruptcy protection.
July 2017 – True Religion
U.S. denim retailer True Religion Apparel confirmed that it has filed for bankruptcy protection and signed a restructuring agreement with a majority of its lenders. True Religion, a company whose denims have gradually fallen out of style, filed for creditor protection under Chapter 11 in the U.S. bankruptcy court in the District of Delaware, and listed assets and liabilities in the range of $100 million to $500 million.
June 2017 – Papaya Clothing
Teen apparel seller Papaya Clothing has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The privately held California-based company, which maintains a network of 80 brick-and-mortar stores and about 1,300 employees, said in its filing that its financial difficulties came from competition from e-commerce and a poorly timed expansion, according to the Wall Street Journal. Opening its first store in 1999, Papaya added about 50 new stores in the last six years. The expansion took “a heavy financial toll” and significantly increased operating expenses, court papers stated.
May 2017 – Rue21
U.S. teen fashion retailer Rue21 Inc filed for Chapter 11 protection on Monday in the Western District of Pennsylvania bankruptcy court.The retail chain, which sells budget-priced clothing and accessories at over 1,100 stores across the United States, listed assets and liabilities in the range of $1 billion and $10 billion, according to the court filing.
April 2017 – Jaeger
British brand Jaeger has gone into administration, following confirmation from the brand it filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators. According to the BBC, Jaeger, which was founded in 1884 and has counted actresses and Kate Middleton among its fans, has struggled to keep up with rivals, such as Burberry, or see off competition from fast-fashion chains including Zara and H&M.
April 2017 – Payless, Inc
Payless filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in St. Louis, listing liabilities of $1 billion to $10 billion and citing a plan to immediately close about 400 underperforming stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. “This is a difficult, but necessary, decision driven by the continued challenges of the retail environment, which will only intensify,” Chief Executive Officer W. Paul Jones said in a statement.
March 2017 – BCBG Max Azria
BCBG, a venerated contemporary brand, which has been a major force in the Los Angeles fashion industry for nearly 30 years, filed for bankruptcy in a third attempt in two years to rescue the business hit hard by changing consumer habits. According to its bankruptcy filing, BCBG is rejecting a number of store leases and closing 120 unprofitable stores that racked up $10 million in losses during fiscal 2016. These stores made up 63 percent of BCBG’s total losses from retail locations with negative contribution margins, the company said in U.S. Bankruptcy Court filings in New York.
Some lenders have agreed to loan the company $45 million to help it get through bankruptcy. That loan must be approved by the judge in the case. BCBG owes lenders about $459 million.
February 2017 – Wet Seal (Round 2)
Wet Seal filed for bankruptcy protection in early February, following reports that the struggling teen apparel retailer had closed all its stores after it was unable to find a buyer. It has since asked the Delaware bankruptcy court to approve an auction for its intellectual property, including its name and assets connected to its website.
January 2017 – The Limited
The Limited filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January. Parent company Limited Stores LLC has agreed to a “stalking horse” bid for its intellectual property and some related assets from an affiliate of private equity firm Sycamore Partners. The company announced that all 250 brick-and-mortar stores will be closed.
NOW: After shuttering its brick-and-mortar stores, the company has also “temporarily closed” its website, writing, “Please know that it has been such an honor to provide fashion for you and other strong, confident women for more than 50 years.” In addition, the retailer noted that all orders not already shipped have been canceled.
January 2017 – Bibhu Mohapatra
The New York City-based designer, Bibhu Mohaptra, filed for bankruptcy in early 2017, telling the Wall Street Journal that he plans to continue operations and he feels the debt restructuring will make his company more attractive to investors. Mohapatra also said the restructuring will allow him to start a more affordable second collection.
NOW: Bibhu Mohapatra staged its regularly-scheduled Fall/Winter 2017 runway show during New York Fashion Week.
December 2016 – Yogasmoga
New York-based athletic apparel firm Yogasmoga filed for Chapter 11 in a bankruptcy court in Manhattan, following an involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy in November. Despite its pure-digital start, Yogasmoga soon took its yoga clothing to two brick-and-mortar stores in 2015, upping up its physical network in ten shops during the past twelve months. Many stress that the founders’ liking for expensive artisan fabrics and costly photography, together with its rapid expansion set the project to fail.
NOW: The yoga company has closed all of its stores except one, which is located in San Diego. “The brand and product is still connecting very strongly with the consumer, so we are shrinking our footprint to online and taking Yogasmoga forward with a smaller footprint online and through the La Jolla store,” the company’s founder, Rishi Bali, said in an email.
November 2016 – American Apparel (Round 2)
American Apparel filed for its second bankruptcy protection in just over a year in November 2016, weighed down by intense competitive pressures facing U.S. teen retailers and a rocky relationship with its founder. The second bankruptcy came as the retailer struggles to overcome years of losses and rising online competition.
NOW: Canadian apparel maker Gildan Activewear won a bankruptcy auction to buy American Apparel’s manufacturing equipment and intellectual property rights for $88 million in cash. The Canadian company beat out other reportedly interested parties, such as Forever 21 and Amazon. American Apparel stores are currently offering steep discounts to clear out leftover merchandise, and all 110 will shutter.
November 2016 – Nasty Gal
Nasty Gal has had a rough couple of years: It cut jobs in both 2015 and 2016, and founder Sophia Amoruso ceded the role of CEO at the beginning of 2016. The company had also been on the receiving end of an array of lawsuits in recent years, both from former employees, who have all cited various forms of discrimination, and intellectual property rights holders, including jewelry designer Pamela Love, who filed a copyright infringement suit against Nasty Gal in summer 2016.
In November, Nasty Gal’s lender, Hercules Technology Growth Capital Inc, a Palo Alto-based lender to venture-backed firms, rejected additional proposals from the brand, which requested a loan just two days into its bankruptcy filing. The brand, instead, filed for Chapter 11.
NOW: Online retailer Boohoo.com purchased Nasty Gal for $20 million as a stalking horse bidder. Per WWD, “they did not include the company’s two Los Angeles area store leases.”
May 2016 – Aeropostale
Aero, like other moderately priced brands, was rocked by the fast fashion stars like H&M, Zara and Forever 21 responding to fashion trends at warp speed, with very cheap price tags to boot, leaving older brands in the dust. Aeropostale filed for Chapter 11 and planned to close more than 100 stores. This came shortly after shares in the company were delisted by the New York stock Exchange in April.
NOW: The mall brand exited Chapter 11 in September 2016 – with only 229 stores, as opposed the approximately 800 they previously boasted. They are now owned in part by mall operators Simon Property Group and General Growth Properties, who jointly bid $243 million.
April 2016 – Pacific Sunwear
Once a staple merchant of California cool, PacSun wasn’t able to adapt as fashion trends left surfwear behind and over-expansion sapped its resources. It amassed crippling debt as it recorded losses each year since 2008. Every effort at reinvention failed, and the company filed for bankruptcy, as the company’s shares were down 96 percent over the previous 12 months.
NOW: PacSun restructured and emerged from bankruptcy in September, under new ownership of Golden Gate Capital. The brand has seen a boost in online sales.
January 2016 – Joyce Leslie
Under pressure from a fiercely competitive market and the rise of e-commerce, New Jersey-based women’s apparel retailer Joyce Leslie Inc. began looking for a buyer to stave off liquidation, having filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after a sharp decline in revenue.
NOW: Unable to find a buyer after 30 days, Joyce Leslie closed all stores in February last year. CEO Celia Clancy said in a statement, “Unfortunately, our efforts to find a strategic partner to help save the business were not successful. We are saddened to say that we now have to close our doors after 65 years.”
December 2015 – Tamara Mellon
The 48-year-old launched her eponymous accessories label in 2013 after co-founding luxury shoe label Jimmy Choo. Her designs were stocked at Net-a-Porter.com and included ready-to-wear pieces as well as shoes and handbags. She filed for Chapter 11 in December 2015.
NOW: Tamara Mellon relaunched her brand in Los Angeles in mid-2016, selling shoes and handbags exclusively on her own site.
October 2015 – American Apparel (Round 1)
American Apparel filed for its first round of bankruptcy in the fall of 2015, after announcing in August that it might not have enough capital to sustain operations for 12 months. The Los Angeles-based company, which confirmed that it had not made a profit since 2009, joined a growing number of U.S. retailers selling to teens and young adults that have been unable to adjust to changing spending patterns and intensifying competition. The company said its stores and manufacturing operations would continue to operate normally under a restructuring deal reached with most secured lenders.
NOW: See above.
September 2015 – Quiksilver
Shares in Quiksilver plunged almost 80 percent in 2015 as the company wrestled with both shipping and accounting issues, and then filed for bankruptcy. It was forced to delay its first-quarter earnings report in March due to a “revenue cut-off issue,” and CEO Andy Mooney left the company that same month.
NOW: Quiksilver was revived thanks to a $50 million investment by Oaktree Capital Management LP. Most recently, Quiksilver partnered with New Schoolers to host a talent-seeking ski competition.
April 2015 – Frederick’s of Hollywood
Known for its racy women’s lingerie, Frederick’s of Hollywood filed for bankruptcy after closing all its stores and reaching a deal to sell the company as an online-only venture to Authentic Brands Group LLC. The previous year, Frederick’s was taken private for about $24.8 million by investors led by a unit of New York-based Harbinger Group Inc. – at the time of the deal, Frederick’s had 94 women’s clothing stores; at its height it had more than 200.
NOW: Per the deal with Authentic Brands Group LLC, Frederick’s now operates exclusively online.
March 2015 – Karmaloop
Weighed down by millions in debt and by poor business ventures, the Boston streetwear company, Karmaloop Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2015.
NOW: Although Kanye West and hip-hop entrepreneur Dame Dash expressed interest in buying a majority stake in the company, ultimately only West Palm Beach, FL-based Comvest Partners and Chicago-based CapX Partners bid to save the company.
February 2015 – Cache
The women’s clothing chain known for helping popularize Armani designs in the U.S. filed for bankruptcy as the sector struggled with growing competition and lower spending by teen shoppers. Cache listed assets of $10 million-$50 million and liabilities of $50 million-$100 million. The mall based retailer, which had 218 outlets, had not reported a profit in the previous nine quarters.
NOW: Cache ended all business operations and closed all stores. According to the brand’s site: “Under previous ownership, Cache went out of business and closed all stores. Next steps for preserving the well-known Cache brand are being explored under new ownership.”
January 2015 – Wet Seal (Round 1)
Wet Seal (like other similar chains) filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2015, hurt by stores like H&M and Forever 21 that woo young people with fast-changing selections of low-priced fashion. Immediately prior, Wet Seal announced that it was closing about 338 stores, or two-thirds of its total. Private equity firm Versa acquired the Wet Seal brand in April 2015, announcing that it would maintain its headquarters and continue operating its 173 stores and growing its online platform.
NOW: See above.
December 2014 – Deb Stores
The Philadelphia-based operator of Deb Shops filed for bankruptcy in December 2014, blaming a shortage of capital. “Deb’s recent performance has been strained due to a combination of factors, including historic lack of capital invested in business resulting in old, tired stores with unfavorable mall traffic trends and general weakness in the competitive juniors’ space,” Chief Executive Officer Dawn Robertson said in court papers.
NOW: Deb Stores has revamped itself into an e-commerce only business, selling exclusively on its own website.
December 2014 – dEliA*s
Delia’s was another clothing retailer that filed for bankruptcy in 2014, citing stagnating shopping-mall traffic and consumers looking to the Internet for bargains.
NOW: Delia’s has revamped itself into an e-commerce only business, selling exclusively on its own website.
July 2014 – Love Culture
Founded in 2007 by former Forever 21 executives Jai Rhee and Bennett Koo, Love Culture launched as a brand aimed at women in the 18-to-35 age range. The company had 82 brick-and-mortar stores stretching from Massachusetts to Hawaii at the time of filing for bankruptcy. In its filings, Love Culture said it “plans during the bankruptcy process to close money-losing stores, restructure its debt and investigate options ‘including a possible sale of substantially all of its assets as a going concern.’”
NOW: The company has since revamped as an online-only retailer.
March 2014 – Ashley Stewart
According to a statement from the company upon filing for bankruptcy, Ashley Stewart began suffering financially in 2012 due to a decline in revenue and profitability. While the company brought on “new senior management and refocused its merchandizing and e-commerce efforts,” it was forced to file for bankruptcy nonetheless.
NOW: The company maintains a network of brick-and-mortar stores throughout the U.S., and also sells online by way of its own e-commerce site.
December 2013 – Loehmann’s (Round 3)
Loehmann’s filed for its latest round of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in federal bankruptcy court, indicating its plans to sell its remaining assets in an auction subject to the court’s approval. Executives with the retail chain, which operated fleet of 39 stores at the time, estimated the company was carrying $100 million in debt, an amount either equal to or greater than the value of its assets.
NOW: According to Loehmann’s, the company “is back, and here to stay.” It operates exclusively online.
July 2013 – Nicole Farhi
Three years after Nicole Farhi and Steven Marks sold off the label they launched together (and one year after Farhi ceased all work for the brand), the company filed for bankruptcy in the UK. According to analyst Peter Saville, a partner at Zolfo Cooper, “As with many other fashion retailers, the decline in high street spend coupled with rising costs has led to increased financial pressures on the business.”
NOW: The brand – sans Ms. Farhi – maintains stores in London and sells through Harvey Nichols and its own e-commerce site.
August 2012 – Betsey Johnson
Betsey Johnson, who started her eponymous label in 1978, filed for bankruptcy after being “bogged down in five-year projections.” She further noted: “Or maybe it all began when stores started knocking off my $250 prom dresses for $49.” Johnson’s partner Steve Madden stated that the company “had delusions of building a huge company and going public. So they borrowed a lot of money, they had too many stores, and their rents were too high.”
Johnson filed for bankruptcy and closed all of her 63 stores after falling into millions of dollars into debt. In 2013, Johnson returned to New York Fashion Week to celebrate the launch of her new collection, intended to “hit department stores and retailers at affordable prices.”
NOW: Betsey Johnson currently maintains its own e-commerce site, where it sells garments, accessories, and home goods. It also sells via Macy’s, Dillard’s, and other similarly situated retailers.
April 2012 – Aquascutum
Troubled British clothing label Aquascutum – which was launched as a menswear brand in London in 1851 and family-owned until 1990, entered into administration. Following “challenging conditions in the UK,” the brand hoped for a turnaround in the company’s fortunes, but were derailed further by the fact Aquascutum’s royalty rights for the Asian market, a high growth area for luxury goods, have belonged to Hong Kong’s YGM Trading since 2009.
NOW: Aquascutum was acquired by a Chinese consortium in 2016 for $120 million. In 2015 the brand closed 14 of its stores in China amid declining sales, but opened one in Europe. In the UK, its three remaining standalone stores are in Westfield London, Great Marlborough Street and Jermyn Street.
November 2010 – Loehmann’s (Round 2)
Discount apparel retailer Loehmann’s sought bankruptcy protection after its Dubai government-linked owner failed to reach a debt-extension deal with creditors.
NOW: See above.
April 2010 – Rock & Republic
Rock & Republic filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in hopes that restructuring would enable the Los Angeles-based denim company to “ease pressures on its balance sheet.” The brand, which sold its wares at upscale stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s and collaborated with celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, cited assets between $50 million and $100 million and liabilities of $10 million to $50 million.
NOW: Under a long-term licensing agreement with VF Corp. – which bought Rock & Republic’s trademarks at a bankruptcy auction last March – VF is manufacturing Rock & Republic’s denim component, with Kohl’s design and sourcing teams responsible for the rest of the apparel categories. The line is now sold exclusively at American department store retailing chain, Kohl’s.
October 2009 – Yohji Yamamoto
Yohji Yamamoto’s label began to experience financial trouble when “fashion conscious Japanese women turned to cheaper casual clothes amid the economic slump. In contrast to high-end fashion houses like Yamamoto, demand for low-cost clothes was booming in Japan” during the first decade of the 2000’s. Saddled with a $76 million debt, Yamamoto filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan.
NOW: Yohji Yamamoto regularly shows during Paris Fashion Week, with stockists including FarFetch, Lyst, and FWRD, and brick-and-mortar stores worldwide.
August 2009 – Escada
Following a 70-million-euro loss for the 2007/2008 financial year, Escada reported further losses with Chief financial officer Markus Schuerholz stating in early 2008 that the company was in danger of insolvency. After an emergency stock swap plan intended to save the company from bankruptcy failed to find sufficient backing among investors, the company filed for bankruptcy.
NOW: The German label – under the creative direction of Daniel Wingate – recently released its Pre-Fall 2017 collection.
May 2009 – Christian Lacroix
Lacroix’s fashion house operated at a loss every year since it was founded in 1987 under the umbrella of luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. LVMH’s plan was to create a fashion house which would sell products from haute couture to handbags and perfume. But Lacroix never had a hit perfume or an “it” bag.
In 2005 LVMH sold the firm for a nominal sum to the Falic Group, owner of Duty Free Americas, a retail chain. Lacroix persuaded the Falic Group to take the brand further upmarket. The new owners closed two cheaper but profitable lines, Jeans and Bazar, and raised prices for ready-to-wear. Per Forbes, “after 22 years of bucking trends and ignoring the bottom line, Christian Lacroix filed for the equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in France.”
NOW: Lacroix, himself, is consulting and working as a costume designer for some of Europe’s top cultural institutions. The brand, which no longer stages runway shows or sells runway garments, sustains itself through the sale of Christian Lacroix branded home goods.
February 2009 – Gianfranco Ferré
The Italian design house filed for administration in early 2009 in what Italian Industry Minister Claudio Scajola called a move aimed “to safeguard the group and its ability to continue in business.” In 2002, Tonino Perna’s IT Holding purchased 90% of the company, while Ferré, himself, retained the position of artistic director until he died in 2007.
NOW: As of now, the brand appears to consist almost exclusively of licensed goods, such as fragrances, as well as its mid-market Ferre Milano collection of garments and accessories, which is sold on Yoox.
December 2008 – Bill Blass
Bill Blass Ltd. filed for Chapter 7 liquidation (the chapter of the Bankruptcy Code provides for “liquidation” – the sale of a debtor’s nonexempt property and the distribution of the proceeds to creditors), citing $192,000 in total assets with debts of $829,000. WWD reported at the time that NexCen – the owner of Bill Blass – was suffering so significantly that it planned to sell the furniture in the Bill Blass showroom. The bankruptcy filing came on the heels of creative director Peter Som exiting the label, retailers losing interest in the brand, and parent company NexCen enduring significant trouble in selling off the brand.
Bill Blass Limited – now known as Bill Blass Group, LLC – was acquired in December 2008 by Peacock International Holdings, LLC. In late October 2014, designer Chris Benz was appointed Creative Director of Bill Blass, which relaunched during the Spring of 2016. Upon his appointment, Benz said he was “…planning an e-commerce push, collaborations with up-and-coming designers and established artists, an accessories range and, possibly, a line of home goods.”
NOW: Still standing, the brand currently sells on Amazon and its own e-commerce site.
February 2008 – Heatherette
Fubu creator Daymond John, who acquired Heatherette in the mid-2000’s when it was in its heyday of showing during New York Fashion Week and garnering fans like Paris Hilton, said that despite injecting upwards of $6 million in the company, he and the label’s founders, Traver Rains and Richie Rich, could not make it work. Per John, the designers indulged in extravagant costume clothing for the runway but failed to develop a hot ready-to-wear retail line.
NOW: Who knows? The label is soundly defunct.
January 2001 – Converse
Sneaker maker Converse announced in early 2001 that it planned to close three North American production plants, which employed about 1,000 people, and to shift production to Asia as part of a bankruptcy reorganization. Chairman and CEO Glenn Rupp insisted that the Converse brand and its sales were strong, but the company was simply too overwhelmed by debt dating back to its 1995 acquisition of ApexOne and subsequent litigation. It also suffered through a dramatic slump in the athletic footwear market worldwide in 1998 and 1999.
In July 2003, Nike paid $309 million to acquire Converse. Nike relaunched the brand’s footwear of choice and “Chucks” quickly became a cultural phenomenon once again. As a result, Nike expanded the Converse brand to other businesses apart from shoes, much akin to its other brands.
NOW: As of 2015, the company is bringing in roughly $2 billion per year, and is consistently making headlines for actively policing unauthorized uses of its intellectual property.
May 1999 – Loehmann’s (Round 1)
In the first of three round of bankruptcy proceedings, Loehmann’s – a chain of off-price department stores in the United States – filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in 1999, emerging in 2000 after closing 25 stores.
NOW: See above.
January 1994 – JNCO
Within months of filing for bankruptcy, the brand, which was popular among skater-types, closed all 1,500 its locations, making it one of the largest retail bankruptcies in history.
NOW: In early 2015, the fashion press was quick to proclaim that “JNCO is back in the spotlight,” set to officially relaunch in stores beginning in 2015. While the revamp has not yet caught on, the JNCO jeans style – the long, massively baggy denim – is making its way onto the runway. “Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia decided to tackle JNCOs. Keeping true to their original design (minus the massive back pockets), they’re just as voluminous as you remember,” per The Cut blog.
January 1992 – Macy’s
At the time of filing, Macy’s had experienced a $1.25 billion loss in its most recent fiscal year. The bulk of the loss was a result of costs associated with the massive reorganization proceedings, including store closings. Macy’s also was hurt by the weak economy, and disasters in two areas where it has a strong presence: Florida, hit by Hurricane Andrew, and Los Angeles, stung by riots.
NOW: After thriving for years, Macy’s, the largest department-store company in the U.S., has cut its earnings outlook, vowed to eliminate 10,000 jobs, or about 4 percent of its workforce, and close over 60 stores before the spring. Following a sluggish holiday season, the beleaguered retailer is taking more drastic steps to slim down as it copes with slow traffic and weak sales in key categories, such as handbags. It previously announced plans to shut 100 underperforming stores, and the chain has been evaluating ways to squeeze more money out of its real estate.
Moreover, if recent reports are accurate, Hudson’s Bay – the owner of Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Gilt Groupe, and other retailers – is said to be in discussions to buy Macy’s.
1989 – Fiorucci
Fiorucci, the Italian fashion label founded by Elio Fiorucci in 1967, went into administration in 1989. [Note: A company in “administration” is either about to become insolvent, or is already insolvent (i.e. cannot pay its debts). The UK-based insolvency proceeding is very similar to the U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy process].
NOW: Fiorucci was rescued by the Tacchella brothers of Italian jeans company Carrera S.p.A., who ultimately sold the company to a Japanese jeans group, Edwin Co., Ltd, for roughly $41 million in 1990. The Fiorucci and Edwin Co., Ltd have since been battling over the rights in the Fiorucci name with the Italian Supreme Court ruling in October 2016 that the designer’s estate may not use his name.
Nonetheless, as of the Spring 2017 season, the brand will begin selling again, revived almost two years after the death of its founder, Elio.
1977 – Tommy Hilfiger
Before becoming an American fashion icon, Tommy Hilfiger launched his first brand, People’s Place, in 1971 – but after six years in business he filed for bankruptcy. Speaking of the expiree, he has said: “We went bankrupt. I was devastated. I was embarrassed. I had started with nothing and worked so hard, and we were so close to making it really big, but I had taken my eye off the ball. I believed that the business would just continue to do well. But it didn’t, because I wasn’t paying attention to the ‘business’ part of the business … I forced myself to learn the nuts and bolts of the business, and not solely on the creative side. I got hyper-focused on it. I learned how to read a balance sheet. I figured out how to control expenses and figured out a way to build a business on a shoestring budget.”
In 1985, Hilfiger launched his eponymous label with backing from the Murjani Group. In March 2010, Phillips-Van Heusen (PVH) bought the Tommy Hilfiger Corporation for $3 billion, in a deal that was nearly seven times what PVH had paid for Calvin Klein in 2003.
NOW: Tommy Hilfiger, himself, remains the company’s principal designer, leading the design teams and overseeing the entire creative process. In fiscal 2015, the Tommy Hilfiger brand accounted for 43.5% of PVH’s total revenue and 44% of its operating profit. As of December 1, 2016, Tommy Hilfiger revenue increased in the quarter to $927 million, and international revenue increased 16% to $525 million.
*This list was first published in December 2016 and has been routinely updated since then.