Mondi Textile Gmbh - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia



German fashion and accessory firm

Founded: in Munich by Herwig Zahm, 1967. Company History: Accessory collections added, 1970s; fashion lines, mainly women's ready-to-wear, included Elementi, Mondi, Portara, Patrizia S, Braun, and Chris (by Christa Zahm); opened freestanding shops in Budapest, 1989, and New York, 1993; company purchased by Investcorp, 1993; issued its own credit cards in U.S., 1997; lost Investcorp backing and forced into bankruptcy, 1999; Mondi trademarks and worldwide licensing rights bought by Fehmi Chama, 1999; Gilmar Group signed license for women's apparel line, launching in 2000; Patrizia S collection set to debut with new German licensee, 2001. Awards: Forum prize of the textile industry, 1986; Igedo's International Fashion Marketing award, 1988; Fashion Oscar, Munich, 1991.

Publications

On MONDI:

Articles

Morais, Richard, "Who is First in the Market, Sells," in Forbes, 16September 1991.

"Investcorp Buys Stake in Mondi, and Pushes Ahead with Circle K," in the Middle East Economic Digest, 8 January 1993.

Dreir, Melissa, "Mondi Making Major Revamp," in WWD, 5 January 1995.

"Telling It Like It Is," in WWD, 21 July 1995.

Ozzard, Janet, "Mondi Recharges Battery," in WWD, 21 February 1996.

"Mondi of U.S. Starts to Offer its Own Plastic," in WWD, 18 February 1997.

Drier, Melissa, "Two German Houses Update for Spring 1999," in WWD, 21 July 1998.

Socha, Miles, "Mondi Goes Soft and Modern," in WWD, 23 December 1998.

Drier, Melissa, and Miles Socha, "Mondi Seeks Backer, Files for Insolvency," in WWD, 10 September 1999.

"Without Financing, Mondi Cancels Spring Collection," in WWD, 1October 1999.

Drier, Melissa, and Vivki Young, "Mondi Signs Licensing Pact for aWomen's Apparel Line," in WWD, 3 November 1999.

Manning, Margie, "Closing," in the St. Louis Business Journal, 29November 1999.

***

The fashion house of Mondi was established in Munich in 1968 by Herwig Zahm, selling exclusive fashion coordinates and accessory goods. By 1995 Mondi sold products in over 54 countries worldwide, through 2,300 independent speciality stores, almost 100 company-owned stores and 200 franchised stores, including a capsule collection on the prestigious cruise liner Queen Elizabeth II. The fates were not kind to the German firm, however, and it lost its footing at the end of the 20th century.

The Mondi group once emcompassed six major labels, yet in its later years had began expanding. The early powerhouse labels were Portara (sophisticated fashion); Mondi (the main label); Chris by Christa Zahm (designer collection); Patrizia S by Mondi (larger-sized fashions) and Braun (sport and golf wear). The overall appeal was cosmopolitan, designed for American, European, and Asian markets. The Mondi woman herself was difficult to categorize; she was undoubtably strong, individual, and successful but also ageless.

There had always been a multicultural feel to Mondi collections, brought about by a diverse design team at the Munich headquarters, as well as at the company's American unit. The designers' varied backgrounds and experiences combined to create a look that was cosmopolitan, formal, and informal, adapting to the demands of city and country. Mondi collections were easily mixed and matched; different fashion themes were explored in each collection, then combined with each other. The customer had the freedom to interpret each look according to her own personality or the occasion for which she was dressing. The company's goal was always to ensure that customers were in control and felt confident, yet individual, in Mondi outfits.

In the expanding but unstable fashion market, Mondi maintained a belief in strong design, bold color, and fashionability. Its wide appeal and distinctive multicultural approach was repeated in every collections, when several strong yet interrelated themes were available to the buyer. Spring/summer 1991 was just such an example, with Pure Paris (fresh summer elegance, with a distinctive Coco Chanel influence), Neo Geo (graphic, chic black-and-white combining lace, dogtooth check, and severe geometric lines), Colorissima (street-smart city silhouettes in primary colors and florals), and Polo Club (nautical, sporty looks in water colors, with embroidered polo emblems). Mondi style was modern yet traditional casual elegance, in sporty yet wearable designs.

In the late 1990s the European recession and Asian slump took its toll on many fashion houses; Mondi was no exception. The firm as well as its Amercian unit, Mondi of America—which accounted for around half of its worldwide sales—suffered setbacks despite innovations to bolster sales. In an effort to revamp its image and retool operations in 1998, Mondi gave in to the increasingly casual atmosphere of apparel, carrying more sportswear and separates, especially at its nearly 50-freestanding U.S. stores. The American division hired a new designer, Maggie Norris, formerly of Ralph Lauren, expanded eveningwear, cut back on logos, and spruced up its advertising as well.

Although Mondi seemed well on its way to a turnaround, the company's owner, Investcorp, had neither the patience or the inclination to see it through. In 1999 Investcorp pulled its financial backing and Mondi was forced to look elsewhere. No immediate backers were found, the firm cancelled its spring-summer 2000 showing, and filed for bankruptcy in quick succession. The American unit remained solvent for slightly longer, then fell into bankruptcy as well. There was, however, a bit of brightness—two licensing pacts were announced, one with the Italian Gilmar Group for a Mondi women's apparel line designed by freelancer Vera Schaal, and another for the Patrizia S larger-sized women's collection. The new Mondi collections were set to debut in 2000 and 2001, and their licensees had high hopes to carry on the Mondi tradition of elegant, wearable fashion.

—Kevin Almond

Nelly Rhodes

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