ATLANTA – Before there was Vera Bradley, before Vera Wang, there was Vera, which has reappeared as a short-term promotion for Target. Not only is the reappearance a good thing for a great classic brand, but it is proof that any number of similarly named products can exist in the same market space and same or overlapping USPTO “goods and services” categories and yet still not confuse the customer.
My grade school teachers at Norfolk Academy, particularly Mrs. Land and Mrs. Guion, were stylin’ ladies and both wore Vera, as did many others, I am sure. (Note, the latter, my 3rd grade teacher, drove what I think I recall was a blue Mercedes 230 with her perfectly tied Vera scarves.) The brand is part of a number of VERY powerful niche fashion brands of the 60s and 70s that completely lost their audience; think Etienne Aigner and Pappagallo, the latter relegated to the unimaginative “moderate” category of Jones Group Inc (Ticker: JNY).
Vera Neumann started her scarf making after World War II, and turned it into an American icon, in the same kitchen table manner as Lilly Pulitzer. It was part of a group of extremely popular post-war print companies including Pucci, Marimekko (which has also been revived) and Laura Ashley.
The company grew into all segments of fashion; Perry Ellis worked for the company when it was part of Manhattan Industries and after he left Virginia’s Miller & Rhoads.
The Wikipedia entry has Vera Licensing sold in 1999 to The Tog Shop, a catalog company which had licensed sportswear from Vera Licensing. The Tog Shop was put up for sale in 2005 and Susan Seid, then then vice president of merchandising of Tog Shop, bought the name. Smart move.
Press reports from Target say that the line is available April 28 to June 23, at all U.S. and Canadian stores and Target.com. The collection offers 17 scarves, according to Brooke Rymer, senior specialist, Category Marketing. “The designs on the scarves represent what Vera was all about—happiness, optimism, inspiration and originality. A Vera Neumann design is timeless, making it the perfect gift.”
Atlanta magazine has a great profile of Seid, who has cleverly revived the company. Writes Betsey Riley:
Susan Seid, a Boston-area merchandising executive, moved to Atlanta to revive the Tog Shop, a staid, fifty-year-old catalog business. On a tour of the factory in Americus, the president took Seid into a remote storeroom above the plant, where she was stunned to find racks, piles, and boxes of Neumann’s work, all copyrighted and nearly forgotten. “There were 20,000 scarves,” says Seid, “each one more amazing than the next. I was so blown away, I was babbling. It was almost like when you fall in love.”