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BCI Renews Camuto License as Ariel Chaus and Manny Chirico Mull Deals

Seventh Avenue — and its back and forth between New York brands and the big department stores — might have faded from the fashion spotlight, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some true believers left.

Witness Ariel Chaus, who has reinvented the business his parents Bernard and Josephine Chaus started in 1975 and transformed it into BCI Brands, a kind of modern incarnation of what fashion was.

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BCI does more than $400 million in wholesale sales with the likes of Nordstrom, Dillard’s and Macy’s, selling goods under the Vince Camuto, 1.State, CeCe, Chaus, Parker, MSK and Cynthia Steffe brands.

Chaus, who repurchased BCI from The Camuto Group in 2018, now leads the company as chief executive officer and last year brought on former PVH chief Manny Chirico to serve as chairman and help plot a course for the future.

One of the duo’s first steps has been to make sure to keep what’s working.

BCI renewed its licensing agreement for Vince Camuto women’s apparel with Authentic Brands Group. The agreement now lasts until the end of 2030 and includes two five-year renewal options.

Jarrod Weber, group president lifestyle, chief brand officer at Authentic, said: “Vince Camuto’s legacy of timeless elegance has been a cornerstone of the fashion industry and our partnership with BCI has allowed us to preserve and elevate that legacy. Ariel is an exceptional partner that brings a fresh perspective.”

By being one of the last of the larger vendors standing — even in a world where department stores have lost a lot of their heft and influence — Chaus has been able to give BCI the business model many vendors were striving for 20 years ago.

“We focus on better product, better price points, healthy [average unit retail prices],” Chaus said. “We run a business that has no dilution, no markdown money, no allowances. We’re able to [manage] margin naturally, we’re able to generate high sell-throughs by managing the business differently than most do.

ariel chaus blue jacket
Ariel Chaus

“We’ve really tried to change the model and do things a little differently, which has allowed us to have success and also to have the retailers have success,” he said.

BCI was recently named one of Nordstrom’s Partners in Excellence, an award that recognizes a brand’s quality, partnership, ethics and business results, among other attributes.

“We have no debt today,” Chaus said. “So we’ve been able to make decisions for the long term. As we think about the business and we think about where we want to go and how we want to use this platform, we really have been able to take a longer-term approach, which I think has really served us quite well.”

More change could now be coming to the business as Chaus and Chirico look over the horizon and consider some more dealmaking.

BCI could expand on the existing themes in its business or branch out in a new direction.

“Because of our drop ship capabilities, we do have the capabilities to really fold in a [direct-to-consumer] brand and take advantage of our backend, which is where the DTC brands have traditionally fallen apart,” Chaus said. “They all know how to acquire customers and have the front end, but they don’t have the sourcing or the leverage or the capabilities that we do on the backend.”

Or, he said, the company could look to buy a denim business or a contemporary brand “that may not have a home.”

“There’s been so much constriction and consolidation both on our side of the business as well as the retail side,” he said. “The strategic landscape has changed.”

So has the investment thesis as so many of the private equity players that used to prowl the industry for deals have moved on.

“Loading these businesses up with debt and being highly leveraged is not usually a recipe for success, which is also why we’ve not gone down that path and why we like our balance sheet and being able to weather these storms in this industry,” Chaus said.

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