Neve Designs ‘on ice’ for winter 2014-15

The 12-year old après ski wear brand has ceased production and is in negotiations to be sold, SNEWS has learned.
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Fans of Neve Designs après ski wear will have to take a season off. The 12-year-old brand didn’t go into production for the winter 2014-2015 season due to issues with offshore factory minimum order requirements.

The brand is in negotiations to be sold, SNEWS has learned.

“We, like a whole lot of other brands at the shows, are at the mercy of offshore factories for minimum order quantities and production requirements, and we got to the point where we were buying volumes of inventory to meet factory requirements that had no relationship whatsoever with what our customers required,” said owner and former CEO Tom Irvine. “We felt that it was better to basically just put the brand on ice until it was fully financed and fully ready to go into the following season in a strong financial and strong market position.”

After a couple unsuccessful years of searching for a production factory either in the United States or Europe, the brand closed its Boulder, Colo.-based headquarters in May 2014 and shut down its website. It’s social media pages, such as Facebook, remain but with no update since May.

“We’ve wanted to hold onto quality, and it was difficult to achieve all of the parameters that we required for our business,” Irvine said. “Now we’re going to let somebody with more horsepower make it work.”

Neve is currently engaged in buy-out discussions with “someone in the ski and outdoor sports industry,” according to Irvine, who refrained from naming the company before the acquisition has been finalized. Although two previous deals didn’t close for “various reasons,” Irvine hopes that this time the buy-out will be complete by the end of September.

Assuming the acquisition does in fact go through, Irvine will step into an advisory role for the brand, which allows him to focus his energy on his new position as CEO of Faribault Woolen Mill Co. in Minnesota. Under new direction, he expects Neve to take on a persona that’s “more sport, less fashion.” Product is expected to return to store shelves in Fall 2015.

As for whether stores that have carried Neve in the past will continue to stock it in the future, Irvine points to the lack of players in the same upscale après niche. “There’s no reason for [retailers] not to get behind the line if they like it,” he said. “If the company’s gone through the new ownership, is well financed and well poised in the market, it should be a great line long-term.”

Retailer confidence may well be bolstered by continued endorsement from the U.S. Ski Team, with which the brand has an exclusive partnership through 2019. “It’s not unusual for a company to be acquired during our relationship with them,” said Katie Gaines, account executive, marketing, who handles the Neve account. “The contract is transferred. We actually proceed as normal.”

With Neve’s strong following, Irvine believes that the brand will bounce back from its yearlong hiatus. Add to that the “critical mass and access to an even broader international market,” of the company looking to acquire it, and “it’s got a really great chance to resurrect itself.”

--Courtney Holden