Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Eric Gaskins Files for Bankruptcy

Crain's New York reports that Eric Gaskins, one of the few Black high-end fashion designers in the industry, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection:
Eric Gaskins, a New York-based designer who founded his eponymous couture line 22 years ago, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this week. Under the corporate name MGB Squared Corp., Mr. Gaskins cited assets less than $50,000 and liabilities between $50,001 and $100,000.

He is seeking protection from fewer than 50 creditors including the IRS, New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and New York State Department of Labor, which is threatening to padlock the company’s doors, according to Mr. Gaskins’ filing. The company’s showroom is based at 264 W. 40th St., near Eighth Avenue, within the Garment District.

Retailing at Saks Fifth Avenue and other upscale stores, the company creates high-end gowns and evening wear that have been worn by celebrities such as Tina Fey and Salma Hayek. The bankruptcy filing by Mr. Gaskins, who is black, is another blow against the black design community.

“There’s been a lot of attention in the past few years to [having] models of color walk the runways, but behind the scenes, there’s been an equal imbalance in the number of African-American designers,” said Susan Scafidi, intellectual property and fashion law professor at Fordham University School of Law. Losing another African-American designer will only widen the divide.
Eric Gaskins Collection

This is but one of several setbacks Mr. Gaskins has had to endure throughout his career. Despite being under the tutelage of legendary couturier, Hubert de Givenchy, Mr. Gaskins had difficulty finding a job with major fashion houses he returned to the States. In a October 2001 interview with Vogue's editor-at-large (and friend/mentor in my head) Andre Leon Talley, he said that houses, such as Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta would not hire him, and recalls an incident when, on a job interview for Valentino, where he was told to go to the service elevator. Yes, they thought Mr. Gaskins, who was dressed in a tailored suit, was a delivery person.

It was then that he decided to start his own business, first designing men's bermuda shorts, which led to sleeveless linen shifts and later cocktail dresses for Barneys Co-op. The Eric Gaskins label has never been a household name like de la Renta or Kors, but Mr. Gaskins did have tremendous success with his trunk shows, showing his couture collection four times a year. His most recent show was in January at Saks Fifth Avenue in Palm Beach. Unfortunately, in today's economic climate where luxury retailers like Bergdorf Goodman and Saks are struggling, the decline has trickled down to the high-end designers they carry, like Mr. Gaskins.

Industry insiders are saying that chances of a comeback for the Eric Gaskins label are slim to none due to its size and lack of capital to restructure.

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