Origins and Development
In 1997, Elie Tahari, an Israeli-born US fashion mogul and designer of his own eponymous fashion label, and his business partner Andrew Rosen, a "third-generation doyen of the New York garment industry", former CEO of Anne Klein and Calvin Klein executive, founded Theory LLC as a women's fashion label in New York City. Tahari designed the clothes and Rosen was in charge of marketing and sales. Originally intended as a men's sportswear label with a focus on comfortable stretch pants, the couple started with a women's collection that turned out to be so successful and thus time-consuming that eventually a men's collection was not launched before 1999.
In 2000, a license agreement was formed with Link International of Japan, established in 1998, to manufacture, and distribute the brand as well as operate stores under the theory name in Asia, predominantly Japan. The label proved highly successful in the Asian market. Women's handbags and shoes were introduced in 2003, and launched nationally in the US for Spring 2006.
Acquisition by Link International
In September 2003, Link International bought an 89% stake in the theory company for $ 100 mio., after Japanese giant textile firm Fast Retailing Co. of Tokyo, established in 1963 and owner of the popular Uniqlo brand, had acquired a 47.1% stake in Link. Mr. Rosen received $ 49 mio, retained the remaining 11 % in the new company, was replaced as CEO by Chikara ‘Ricky' Sasaki of Link but remained president and COO. Mr. Tahari was allocated $53 mio of the sale and had no shares in the new company which was renamed Theory Holdings. The deal was explained by the fact that the label was to become a truly global brand. The Japanese parent company has since then traded under the name of Link Theory Holdings and went public in 2005.
Signature Style and Designers
Incorporating a more casual business style, the collections consist of simple, quiet, "uncomplicated and unassuming" suits, coats, shirts, blouses, skirts, pants, sweaters, shoes, and accessories with clean silhouettes made of fine materials. Even though the clothes "have virtually no profile, in part because they are often intentionally nondescript" and are hence "almost impossible to identify" the label still attracts a cult-like following amongst fashion conscious consumers. Retail prices range from about $200 for blouses, shirts and pants to $300 for summer dresses and $500 for blazers, for example.
Link Theory Holdings
theory's owner, Link Theory, bought fashion house Helmut Lang from Prada " and German fashion label Rosner in 2005. Rosner's European production and distribution network is to help expand the theory label in the European market over the next few years.
theory is Link Theory's core brand. Other brands include Helmut Lang, Proof, Rosner, PLS+T and footwear label Jean-Michel Cazabat. For the Japanese market, exclusive sub-labels of the theory brand, such as theory men, theory luxe, theory petit have been created. Link Theory is headquartered in Aoyama, Tokyo.
As of 2008, theory maintains 16 signature retail stores as well as 13 outlet stores in the US. The label is sold at major retailers, such as Bloomingdale's, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, South Coast Plaza, Beverly Hills, New York, Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York, and Nordstrom, as well as Holt Renfrew in Canada. In Europe, signature theory stores exists in Athens, Monaco, and Paris and showrooms are maintained in Milan and London. The brand is also sold in Europe through upscale boutiques and exclusive department stores, such as Printemps in France or Harvey Nichols in the UK. In Asia, numerous theory stores are located in China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. In Japan, the company also offers price-reduced merchandise at eight signature outlet stores. The company's web site lists no store locations for South America, Africa, or Oceania.
In North America, theory has boutiques in Aspen, Atlanta, Aventura, Boca Raton, Costa Mesa, Greenwich, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. The theory label's headquarters and design offices are located in New York City's Meatpacking District, at 40 Gansevoort Street. The building also houses a theory flagship store.
In 2006 Tahari sued his former partner Rosen (as well as Link Theory Holdings and Mr. Sakasi) for having urged Tahari to sell theory at a price below its value to the Japanese in 2003, seeking damages and a share in the proceeds from the company's IPO in excess of $ 180 mio. Rosen had also said that he would retire from the company within a year from the sale when, in fact, after Tahari's departure, he stayed on as the newly established company's president. Link Theory called Mr. Tahari's complaint "frivolous claims", Rosen labeled it "seller's remorse" and the case was later dismissed by a New York judge, even denying Tahari's claim for unpaid royalties by theory's then Asian licensee, Link International.