When consumers consciously hit pause on shopping habits, it's to cultivate a new mindfulness around consumption and spending. And though it happens less often, some designers also take a step out of the relentless fashion cycle to rethink and regroup. Sometimes the reasons are financial, other times philosophical, but those who return usually do so with a rediscovered appreciation of what drew them to the industry in the first place. Don't call it a comeback – this being fashion, it might be more appropriate to call it an energizing cleanse.
In 1985, Diane von Furstenberg took a hiatus (one initially made possible by her lucrative stationery, luggage, eyewear and home furnishings licences) after she no longer enjoyed how her original working woman's wardrobe had evolved into a couture line of "very expensive products that only a few can afford." She shuttered it and moved to Paris, where she lived for several years, co-founded a small publishing company and became a literary patron. "It was a weird feeling," von Furstenberg tells biographer Gioia Diliberto of a New Year's Eve party that year, at which she bumped up against her "old celebrity self" – "I felt both superior and inferior, attached and detached. On the one hand, I felt quite smug that I'd been there, done that, and moved on. On the other hand, other designers were doing fashion, and I wasn't." She travelled the world but itched to get back into fashion. The style that enabled her comeback seven years later? A 1992 relaunch version of her signature easy and chic wrap dress, sold under the affordable Silk Assets label on QVC.
Adam Lippes left his namesake company soon after it was acquired by brand marketing company Kellwood in 2010 and, like DVF, travelled the world for a time, only to buy his trademark back and relaunch in the fall of 2013. Lippes took lessons learned to heart the second time around, less interested in trend than in the more considered garments and elaborate modern tailoring that had lured him into the industry when he first worked for Oscar de la Renta. "The strategy before was, 'How fast can we grow? How much stuff can we make? How big can our office be? How expensive can our fashion shows be?'" he said upon his return. "It's not about that now. It's very thoughtful. We don't have to take over the world right now." Lippes repositioned the brand up from accessible contemporary to higher-end designer, and it's thriving. (That said, Lippes kept his marketing savvy: He also has an extensive fall tartan collaboration with retailer Target out this week.)
And designer Kate Spade – the woman herself, not the brand name, which she sold in 2007 and is now overseen by Deborah Lloyd – is returning to fashion this holiday season after an eight-year hiatus, according to WWD, with an accessories line of shoes and handbags. This is how she initially started in 1993.
Likewise Tucker, a contemporary women's clothing line known since 2006 for vibrant florals and abstract patterns and the cult popularity of its "The Classic" blouse, a simple flattering style with a smocked collar and three-quarter sleeves that former stylist Gaby Basora had originally designed for herself. It was picked up by Barney's New York and in a few short years grew into a full collection stocked in more than 300 stores internationally, with capsules and collaborations with Tretorn, Target and Loeffler Randall, but went dark after the 2013 collection.
"We're back from our hiatus!" Basora enthuses over the phone from New York, although she isn't sure that's quite the right term. "A refreshing? A reboot?" An extensive studio fire set the company back in terms of infrastructure and required a time out in 2014 to rebuild what had been lost. The pause may not have been a creative seven-year itch but it did come at an opportune time. "Just then I was thinking about what type of business I wanted it to be," Basora recalls. "I had to scale things back or make a decision to take the company in a direction that I didn't want to." In that production break, Basora pursued a business degree with the Institut de la Mode in Paris, and the MBA has both re-affirmed her original approach and helped elaborate on future brand goals.
"I think sustainability is a conversation that should be a given," Basora says. "But certainly a company like mine, where we are having this opportunity to start again in many ways and potentially make different decisions, I think it is also possible to have a meaningful business with a decent scalability."
Tucker still manufactures in New York City, for example, "but we sell around the world and what I would love to do as the business grows is partake in a global ecosystem and produce things in Italy or in Asia where we sell," she says. "To not just be involved in one aspect of the ecosystem providing a product that's being sold, but how and where things are made is an anthropological and social conversation."
That conversation is also partly what brought Tucker back – in response to the grassroots demand of loyal customers, who Basora says clamoured and wrote letters. "That's a powerful thing, to be one of those things that people attach themselves to," she says. Basora's quiet relaunch of the brand from her Chelsea studio last month echoed how the line first started – with a small selection of quirky prints and colour combinations, including The Classic Blouse, which is unchanged since its inception.