Fenn Wright Manson - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia



British fashion house

Founded: by Trevor Wright, Colin Fenn, and Glynn Manson in London, 1974. Company History: American subsidiary formed in New York, 1977; Glynn Manson departed, 1984; acquired by Cygne Designs, 1994; branded UK unit sold to Colin Fenn, 1995. Company Addresses: Moray House, 23-31 Great Tichfield St., London W1P 7FE, England; 500 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10018, U.S.A. Company Website: www.fwm.co.uk or www.fennwrightmanson.com .

Publications

On FENN WRIGHT MANSON:

Articles

"Cygne Inks Deal to Buy Fenn Wright and Manson," in DNR, 14December 1993.

"Cygne Designs Buys Fenn Wright and Manson," in WWD, 8 April 1994.

Green, Roy E., "Cygne Designs, Inc. Announces Record Fourth Quarter and Year-End Results," in Business Wire, 14 April 1994.

"Cygne to Buy Hong Kong Intimate Apparel Maker," in WWD, 5August 1994.

Furman, Phyllis, "Apparel Maker's Star Waxing with Purchase," in Crain's New York Business, 8 August 1994.

"Cygne Designs Inc. Agrees to Sell UK Subsidiary of its Fenn, Wright & Manson Unit," in the Wall Street Journal, 30 March 1995.

"Cygne Sued by Holder on Fenn Buy," in WWD, 20 December 1995.

"Cygne, Holders Settle Suit," in WWD, 15 January 1997.

Alexander, Hilary, "Soft, Slinky and Back in Style," available online at the Telegraph Network, www.portal.telegraph.co.uk , 2001.

***

The Fenn Wright Manson (FWM) Group was founded in 1974 by Trevor Wright, Colin Fenn, and Glynn Manson, as a British-based company operating from London. Initially, all sales were to the UK market, and production was wholly in Hong Kong. The company designs, manufactures, and sells both women's and men's clothing, with by far the largest part of the business generated through the women's divisions.

An international market has been established since 1976, in which year the company also formed a buying office to oversee and control its production requirements in the Far East. The firm established its own American subsidiary in 1977, and began trading in the U.S. in 1978. The firm sells to the high-end department stores internationally, the better specialty chains, and independent specialty stores. Sales in the U.S. accounted for most of FWMs volume, and a large proportion of these sales were made through the operation of retail outlets, situated in outlet malls on the East Coast. The company also had a showroom at the Dallas Mart which operated only during show weeks.

Fenn Wright Manson womenswear draws on the themes of timeless classics, stylish and functional sportswear, and refined tailoring. The combination of styles creates a feeling of warmth, comfort, and easy dressing. Collections in the 1990s featured longer lines, with softer tailoring, uncluttered shapes, and clean layers in soft and earthy colors: cream, mushroom, camel, tobacco, and chocolate. A variety of fabrics and knits include lambswool, angora, wool, cotton, as well as leather and Lycra. In addition, there were sandwashed silk shirts available in 30 different colors, and silk twill, as well as needlecord and cotton poplin shirts taking on the guise of the classic denim shirt, with top stitching detail and billow pockets.

The middle and later 1990s ushered in a host of problems for FWM. In April 1994 the firm was acquired by Cygne Designs, Inc., a producer of womenswear sold mostly to the Ann Taylor and Limited chains. Within months of the buy, Cygne bought GJM International Ltd., the Hong Kong-based intimate apparel manufacturer founded by Glynn Manson (who left FWM in 1984). It was an odd coupling of past and present, and Cygne executives believed the three firms represented all major segments of women's apparel, from GJM's lingerie to FWM's sportswear and classic separates. The marriage of brands, however, was not a happy one; poor sales in womenswear in 1995, especially FWM's mainstay silk, turned the union sour. Cygne spun off Fenn Wright Manson's UK branded unit back to founder Colin Fenn, slashed jobs at FWM's Hong Kong and U.S. divisions, and sold GJM to Warnaco in 1996.

Despite the corporate imbroglios, FWM survived and will always be known for its wearable fashion with an emphasis on quality and value. Its sweaters, silks, and sportswear are a hallmark of British fashion sensibility, and available not only from well known retailers Nicholsons and Gray & Osbourn, but from several new Fenn Wright Manson stores as well.

—DoreenEhrlich;

updated by OwenJames

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