MANUFACTURING

San Francisco Clothing Label Isda Closes After 25 Years

Isda & Co., an updated misses line founded in 1989 by designer Isda Funari, has suddenly stopped operations and closed its doors after showing its Fall 2014 collection earlier this year in New York and Las Vegas.

Sales representatives and store owners were perplexed by the abrupt decision to shutter the San Francisco venture, with company executives giving no explanation for the sudden closure.

Isda & Co., known for its high-quality fabrics and softly engineered designs that fit well but seemed effortless, showed in February at Coterie in New York and at Stitch in Las Vegas.

Several store owners placed orders, noting that the Fall collection looked outstanding. “I had bought a beautiful mohair coat edged in leather with a simple, elegant design,” said Debbie Harder, owner of the 1-year-old Bossa Nova store in Sonoma, Calif. “There was a beautiful leather skirt that hit mid-calf that retailed for under $500. Their sweaters were amazing, retailing for $168 to $398.”

After placing her orders at the Coterie show in February, Harder got a call from her sales representative in June. “They told me I wouldn’t be getting my orders,” she remembered. No reason was given for the company closing down. It was one of her top four vendors.

All the Isda sales representatives across the country received the same call from either Candice Gold, an Isda consultant/sales manager in San Francisco, or Trica Tuozzo, the sales manager in the New York corporate showroom, which is now closed.

Gary Kitaeff, who had worked as Isda’s northeast sales representative for 19 years, said he received a telephone call in June telling him the company was officially suspending operations. That was it. “That begs a variety of questions,” Kitaeff said.

He had to call the 75 stores he works with in his Northeast territory to notify them that there would be no Fall deliveries. “These are good, top-shelf misses kind of stores that carry the brand and appeal to a modern woman,” he said. “It was a great line.”

Margaret Chevedden, whose Dial M showroom at The New Mart in Los Angeles represented Isda & Co., got a telephone call from Gold saying the company would not be fulfilling its Fall orders. “It was a surprise,” Chevedden said.

And David Byrne, the company’s southeast representative, based in Atlanta, got a phone call saying the company had decided not to go forward with shipping its Fall products. “They said they would try to clear up best they could with commissions and that I should notify my accounts. That is how it was left with me,” he said.

The telephone number for Isda & Co.’s corporate headquarters and its on-site outlet store have been changed to another telephone number, whose voice mail instructs people to leave a message or send an email to resolve accounting questions or other issues. Several messages left by the California Apparel News received no answers.

Funari, the designer who started the line and was contacted at her Northern California home, said she left the company about 1½ years ago and was no longer affiliated with it. “I just heard through a telephone call that the company closed,” she said. “I don’t really know why it is closed. I don’t have any details.”

Funari said that nearly 20 years ago she sold a majority share of Isda & Co. to Hii Finance Corp., a private-investment company in Vienna, Va., that also has a stake in the New York contemporary sweater company White + Warren.

Calls to Hii Finance President Samia Farouki only left more questions. “The person that is responsible for that is not here. He will be back in 10 days,” she said, abruptly hanging up.

No bankruptcy filings for Isda & Co. or Hii Finance were found in the courts in California, Virginia or Delaware.

The company’s sudden cessation of operations left several store owners scrambling to fill in Fall orders. “I made my Fall orders in April and found out at the end of June that they would be canceled,” said Michelle Round, the owner of the Heatherbloom store in San Marino, Calif., which has carried the Isda & Co. label for four to five years. “It was well received. They paid attention to the fit and structure and kept prices reasonable. People didn’t have to think about how to wear it. It did it for them.”

Isda Funari, the label’s founder, worked for Esprit in San Francisco before launching her own company. She wanted to create a label that was stylish, urban and sophisticated for women between the ages of 35 and 65. Her principal was based on the Shaker formula of incorporating the elements of simplicity, usefulness and beauty. She once described her clothes as “any-age cool.”

Yet even any-age cool could not do the trick. “It was a good run for 25 years,” Funari observed. “Nothing lasts forever.”

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