Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta Settle Legal Battle

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  • Oscar de la Renta
    Oscar de la Renta
    Dominican clothing designer

NEW YORK — Designer peace reigns.

The legal tussle between Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta, which shined a spotlight on the inner workings of two of America’s most iconic fashion houses, came to a discreet end Friday.

A statement from the two companies on Friday noted: “Carolina Herrera Ltd., Oscar de la Renta LLC and Laura Kim have reached a settlement of the lawsuit filed by Carolina Herrera Ltd. The terms of the settlement are confidential, except that Laura Kim has returned to Oscar de La Renta LLC, subject to the conditions agreed upon by the parties.”

The settlement appears to be a victory of sorts for de la Renta, given that Kim is allowed to continue in her role as co-creative director with Fernando Garcia.

Herrera filed its suit late last month in the Supreme Court of the State of New York seeking to block Kim from joining de la Renta. It claimed Kim had a six month non-compete agreement which, according to the lawsuit, barred the designer from working at only one other fashion house: Oscar de la Renta.

Kim founded the Monse brand with Garcia and has proven to have a knack for bringing a youthful air to established brands. Herrera, the company, maintained that Kim could not work for de la Renta until her non-compete agreement ran out in April. That would have meant that Kim could not have designed de la Renta’s fall 2017 collection.

Judge Jeffrey K. Oing, who once presided over Macy’s Inc.’s suit against Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and J.C. Penney Co. Inc., granted a preliminary injunction that for a time barred Kim from returning to de la Renta. A hearing on the matter was scheduled for Jan. 10. Oing later lifted the preliminary injunction but the hearing date remained in place.

While baring the inner workings of a major fashion house, Herrera’s suit also didn’t obscure the company’s plans to “transition out” the 77-year-old Carolina Herrera herself and replace her with a younger creative director, Kim.

The suit said Herrera’s ceo Francois Kress offered Kim a salary of $1 million to become senior vice president of design of the Carolina Herrera brand. Kim allegedly turned the job down, though, and left to join de la Renta.

An affidavit filed with the suit by Kim’s lawyer Neil Capobianco said Kim started having talks about becoming creative director of the House of Herrera about a year ago with the understanding that Herrera herself would be “transitioning” out of that role.

However, according to the affidavit, Kim realized that “nobody had informed Ms. Herrera that she was being transitioned out and that Ms. Herrera intended to run CH as if she were the creative director.”

The affidavit said Kim tried to “work around the tensions inherent in a surreptitious transition plan,” but realized the conditions were “untenable and unworkable” and resigned on July 8.

The suit claimed that the Herrera brand has lost business since Kim left and described her as a “unique employee” who is “very adept at creating designs that are what commercial clients are interested in stocking in their stores.”

Herrera’s suit said the resort 2016 collection Kim helped design was “the most commercially successful ever in its 35-year history.”

The settlement brings to a close the latest battle in a long-running rivalry between the two fashion houses.

The Puig-owned Herrera is substantially larger, but draws heavily on the fragrance category, while de la Renta’s operation is focused on ready-to-wear and accessories. Kim worked for the late de la Renta for 12 years before leaving to consult with Herrera.

Kim and Garcia consulted for Herrera in fall 2015, and Kim became the company’s vice president of design last January with an annual salary of $450,000, or at a semimonthly rate of $18,750.

That shows exactly how valuable young talent can be to established brands, which are working to connect with a new generation of consumers that has grown up in the Internet age, with fast fashion and a relentless digital drip of style on social media.

It’s a whole different world than the one de la Renta and Herrera once sought to divide between the two of them.

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