Monday, February 15, 2010

Maria Pinto Closes Boutique; Files For Bankruptcy

Sad news. The Chicago Sun-Times has reported that Maria Pinto, the prominent Chicago designer who dressed First Lady Michelle Obama during the the 2008 presidential campaign, has decided to shut down her boutique and will file for bankruptcy:

Pinto said, ''After 20 years of pursuing my greatest passion and striving to build a successful high-end fashion business, the time has come for a new chapter in my life.''

Pinto cited ''increasing economic challenges and soft buying trends at the top end of the apparel market'' among the reasons for the downfall of her business, which includes the shuttering of her design and wholesale operations and the retail store on South Jefferson.
The news comes as a surprise to many in the industry. Ms. Pinto became the darling of the fashion world when Mrs. Obama wore several of her designs on the campaign trail (My favorite was the purple silk sheath Mrs. Obama wore when her hubby, President Barack Obama, clinched the democratic nomination. She looked gorgeous!). Last year, Ms. Pinto showed her Spring 2010 collection at NY Fashion in September, and was inducted into the CFDA last year. So, the question is: What happened? Why she wasn't able to capitalize on the Obama connection like J.Crew and Jason Wu, two of Mrs. Obama's fashion favorites? Kevin Wilder, retail analyst and president of Wilder, Inc., tells WWD that her wholesale business may have been the problem:

“If some of the boutiques she was selling to weren’t paying their bills, there’s only so long you can exist. I suspect that’s what happened,” said Wilder, also questioning whether Pinto was able to adjust her prices downward as some other designers have done.
Another potential factor could be Pinto's price point. While other luxury labels have either lowered their prices, or created products specifically for their budget conscience cliente, like Coach, Inc., Ms. Pinto kept her price point the same.

But Ms. Pinto says don't count her out just yet. ''I am confident that the 'Maria Pinto' name will not go away, but will merely take a break, before emerging in a new form. I plan on using the next several months to explore different avenues and opportunities for business, as economic conditions improve," Pinto said.

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