American dancewear, activewear, and hosiery manufacturer
Founded: in 1882 by Joel and Benson Goodman in New York City. Company History: Founded as a dry goods store; imported hosiery items introduced in 1923. Specialty dance items such as leotards and nylon tights offered in the 1950s; Danskin sold by Goodman family to International Playtex, Inc. (part of Esmark, Inc.), 1980; Esmark bought by Beatrice Companies, Inc., 1984; Beatrice bought by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company for $6.2 billion, 1986; Beatrice sells Danskin and Pennaco Hosiery units (as Esmark Apparel, Inc.) to Eaglewood Partners, 1986; named changed back to Danskin, Inc.; Danskin goes public, 1992; SunAmerica, Inc. acquires a 33.7-percent stake in Danskin, 1996; stock delisted by NASDAQ, 1997; Packables and Zen Sport lines introduced, 1999; acquired licenses for Ellen Tracy and Evan Picone hosiery lines, 2000. Awards: Coty award, 1978. Company Address: 530 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10018, USA. Company Website: www.danskin.com .
McGill, Leonard, Disco Dressing, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1980.
de Ribere, Lisa, "Danskins Are For Dancers," in Dancemagazine , October 1983.
Grieves, Robert T., "Stretching the Image," in Forbes , 18 April 1988.
Moore, Lila, "Danskin Leaps Back from the Bunk," in Apparel Industry Magazine , January 1993.
* * *
After many years of financial struggle, it looks as if Danskin may have the opportunity to pull in more of the activewear market with its Packables and Zen Sport yoga lines, combined with newer designer name hosiery lines. Trying not to place all of its eggs in one basket, Danskin will need a strong consumer reaction to pull itself up to the barre and out of a financially troublesome slump.
Danskin began as a small dry goods store founded in 1882 by Joel and Benson Goodman in New York City. The store found a niche in the dance apparel market by selling imported European hosiery and tights to local dancers of the time. Seizing the opportunity this demand presented, the Goodmans began to manufacture items specifically targeted to dancers, and it was soon apparent the Goodman brothers' operation dominated the dance industry market in America. The Goodmans were the first to introduce knit tights, fishnet stockings, and leotards, standardizing the popular colors designated as "Ballet Pink" and "Theatrical Pink."
During the 19th century and into the 20th, Danskin governed the dancewear market in the U.S. but it wasn't until the 1950s that Danskin acquired its trademark name. At that time, nylon was first introduced into the manufacture of hosiery, calling more attention than ever to the wearer's skin. Hence the name Danskin, a simple combination of the words "dance" and "skin." In 1952 Danskin offered a waist-to-toe tight, made of a versatile two-way stretch nylon. Soon the Danskin name was synonymous with dancewear and became the favorite apparel for skaters and gymnasts as well.
By the last years of the 1950s and the early 1960s, Danskin's name and products had become more mainstream. The company made resourceful changes to its bodysuit line by adding snap closures for expedience and revising the overall look of the bodysuit to make it more appealingly stylish to the casual wearer. The company launched its first public advertising campaign in the fall of 1958, with huge success; Danskin's most profitable item was fast becoming the nylon waist-to-toe tight.
Peter Goodman, the grandson of the original Goodmans, kept the Danskin operation lucrative during the remainder of the 1960s and throughout the 1970s. With more and more leg showing in the fashion world, the fitness and disco craze, and swimwear taking on the look of the leotard, it was easy for Danskin to live up to its ads, stating that Danskins weren't just for dancers anymore. For marketability's sake, Danskin started hosting athletic events to try and boost sales of their products. Danskin supported everything from universal skills rating tests for gymnastics to the very popular triathlons of today. Coupled with advertising campaigns featuring popular athletic and Olympic personalities, sent scores of children to the balance beam and the ballet barre, and an equal number of adults to the workout room. Department stores began incorporating athletic wear and hosiery sections into their stores, and have since become commonplace markets for Danskin products.
Danskin lost its privately owned status when it was sold to International Playtex, Inc. in April 1980. Esmark, founded in 1972, was the parent company of International Playtex and was itself acquired four years later by Beatrice Companies, Inc. in 1984. Beatrice, however, was soon in financial turmoil and Danskin was put on the back burner. By 1985 Beatrice announced its intention to sell off all of its knitwear operations, including Danskin. In anticipation of this event, Beatrice paired Danskin with another Esmark apparel component, Pennaco Hosiery, to form Esmark Apparel, Inc. in February 1986. A few months later, Beatrice announced the successful sale of their knitwear division to the Eaglewood Partners investment group.
At the time of the sale, Esmark Apparel, Inc. (which included Danskin), maintained the greatest portion of the feminine exercise clothing business. In charge of Esmark was Byron A. Hero, who had grandiose plans for expanding the company. Hero's expansion banked on the names and reputations of Danskin and Pennaco Hosiery, and he was determined to infuse company proceeds into expanding operations and market infiltration. By the end of 1986, Esmark purchased Dance France Ltd. which was merged with Danskin's operations. With the aid of a huge ad campaign in 1987, Danskin unveiled its first line of plus-sized dancewear with Danskin-Plus, and promoted a line of short, tight-fitting dresses. Esmark's next move was the purchase of Repetto France, a specialty ballet shoe and tutu manufacturer, as well as the license to distribute Givenchy hosiery overseas. Business was profitable for a time, and Esmark Apparel changed its name back to Danskin in July 1992.
In order to raise capital for more expansion, the company went public with three million shares in 1992, to the tune of $13 a share. For the next couple years Danskin was able to turn a profit until the final quarter of 1994 when Hero took out a loan from SunAmerica, Inc. with the idea of broadening Danskin's athletic swimwear products. When plans fell apart, financial turmoil quickly followed. Hero stepped down from daily operations but retained the title of chairman, and was replaced by Howard D. Cooley, former president of International Jockey. When the SunAmerica loans came due and Danskin was unable to pay, SunAmerica took control of a 34-percent stake of the company and put it up for sale.
Incapacitated by overwhelming debt and several changes in leadership, Danskin finally fell under the control of an investment group led by Onyx Partners in 1997, which controlled about three-quarters of the company. In an effort to attract more consumers and boost sales in a declining hosiery market, Danskin acquired licenses for several top designer hosiery labels, including Ralph Lauren. Next the company initiated its "Packables" line in February of 1999, followed by the Zen Sport yoga line in August. By May 2000 Brandweek reported that Danskin had brought Barry Tartarkin aboard with a deal to license both the Ellen Tracy and Evan Picone hosiery lines. Despite questionable decisions and financial missteps, Danskin executives maintained hope that it wasn't too late for the dance and activewear pioneer.