Couture fashion designer files for bankruptcy

Susan Scafidi in Crain's New York, March 11, 2009

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By Adrianne Pasquarelli

The tough retail environment has claimed another fashion victim. Eric Gaskins, a New York-based designer who founded his eponymous couture line 22 years ago, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this week. Under the corporate name MGB Squared Corp., Mr. Gaskins cited assets less than $50,000 and liabilities between $50,001 and $100,000.  

He is seeking protection from fewer than 50 creditors including the IRS, New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and New York State Department of Labor, which is threatening to padlock the company’s doors, according to Mr. Gaskins’ filing. The company’s showroom is based at 264 W. 40th St., near Eighth Avenue, within the Garment District. 

The designer, who is traveling out of the country, could not be reached for comment. 

Retailing at Saks Fifth Avenue and other upscale stores, the company creates high-end gowns and eveningwear that have been worn by celebrities such as Tina Fey and Salma Hayek. The bankruptcy filing by Mr. Gaskins, who is black, is another blow against the black design community. 

“There’s been a lot of attention in the past few years to [having] models of color walk the runways, but behind the scenes, there’s been an equal imbalance in the number of African-American designers,” said Susan Scafidi, intellectual property and fashion law professor at Fordham University School of Law.

Losing another African-American designer will only widen the divide.  

Since Mr. Gaskins’ company is small, some industry insiders think it lacks the capital necessary to restructure and emerge financially healthy from bankruptcy.  

“Bankruptcy is supposed to allow the individual having the problems to get back on his feet, but I don’t know how that’s going to happen in this climate,” Ms. Scafidi said.