Rags to riches to rags

Louis Verdad was one of L.A.'s hottest designers, but he had little idea of how to run a business. And then things just got away from him. As Los Angeles magazine's Laurie Pike chronicles in the December issue (not yet online), Verdad lost his business, his inventory, and even the rights to his own name. Actually, it's not that unusual in the rag trade, where egos often get in the way of making sound decisions - or hiring people who are given the authority to make sound decisions.

The only thing worse for a designer than too little attention is too much. The first Madonna order may have christened Verdad as an artist of note, but taking the time to make the order disrupted his daily production. “It put me behind big-time,” he says. He wasn’t remunerated for Madonna’s made-to-measure items or for most of the other celebrity commissions that followed. The payoff was publicity, but his growing fame worsened the problem of too many outfits due in too little time.

The 43-year-old Mexican American got his start on the mass-merchant schmatas you see at Wal-Mart before moving on to his own line of upscale boutique items. In 2003 he got a standing ovation after his show at the Shrine.

“It was probably the easiest line I’ve ever sold,” says Deborah Shapiro, Verdad’s sales rep from 2003 until 2005. “People consistently loved the collection. But stores would drop him because of shipping problems. The clothing would be late, and it wouldn’t be what was ordered.” Fashion companies everywhere struggle to quickly make duplicates that match the specifications of the fussedover sample, but the problem is rampant in L.A., where young designers aim for instant stardom instead of slow growth.

A friend loaned Verdad a bunch of money and tried to advise him, but the designer kept spending foolishly (big building, large salaried staff, no secondary lines). This fall Verdad interviewed for jobs with several companies in NY.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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