Revman Moves to the Future

The forward-looking vendor closes in on its 25th anniversary
By David Gill

Rich Roman

Rich Roman: “What we do good at Revman is anticipate the future.”

With its first quarter-century in business almost complete, Revman is making a big move—literally.

The company is relocating both its head office and showroom from 1211 Sixth Ave. in New York City, where it has been since January 1989, to the Empire State Building. The new space occupies the entire 70th floor of the iconic building.

Rich Roman, Revman’s president and CEO, said the showroom portion will be “a state-of-the-art environment” that will be more flexible than its previous show space, and that will better reflect “the lifestyle aspect of our brands.”

The move also is a sign of how the times in the textiles industry have changed. Revman was the last major vendor to have its showroom in the 40th- to 50th-Street area on Sixth Avenue. At one time, all of the major mills had their showrooms in this part of New York City.

Now an increasing number of vendors have their showrooms on Fifth Avenue, in the 27th- to 34th-Street area, near Revman’s new showroom. Almost all of the major mills that Revman competed with from its first day in existence have ceased to exist.

Revman Steve Madden

The Alexa ensemble from Steve Madden. Relationships with both designers and retailers are the core of Revman’s business. revman.com

From the start, Revman chose a business model that was in deep contrast to that of the major mills. In the early 1980s, when Roman worked for Burlington, 95 percent of all textiles were made in the United States, by his estimate. “There were as many as 14 major mills, all big companies, at the time,” he said in an interview with HFN.

As the decade progressed, Roman noticed the signs of a major manufacturing shift. “I recognized the fact that apparel was coming more and more from offshore,” he said. “The retailers were looking more at offshore suppliers, which was aided by the onset of free trade. I felt that eventually, the big mills would have trouble competing.”

There was another key change happening in the industry, which would eventually fuel Revman’s business. “I also thought the mill brands wouldn’t be as important as they once were,” Roman said. “They would be replaced by designer brands because they stand for a lifestyle and quality, and are well marketed.”

By the end of the 1980s, Burlington had sold the division in which Roman worked to J.P. Stevens. Leaving that company, he started Revman with a cut-and-sew operation located in Henderson, N.C., “but I knew that would be temporary. I began sourcing from Mexico, China and India as well.”

Revman Tommy Bahama

Tommy Bahama, whose Palma Sola ensemble is seen here, is one of the large stable of designer and lifestyle brands offered by Revman.

In terms of designer brands, Revman moved to take a leadership position. “Our first was Marimekko, and that was followed by Laura Ashley,” Roman said. In fact, he had already played a key role in Burlington’s obtaining the Laura Ashley license in 1982, a license that later went to J.P. Stevens at the same time as Roman.

Through the years, Revman has piled designer license upon designer license. Today, the company’s designer stable includes Tommy Hilfiger, Tommy Bahama, Vera Wang, Steve Madden, Perry Ellis and Candice Olson. It has also accumulated lifestyle brands such as l’erba, Hotel Luxe, Manor Hill, Stone Cottage and Eddie Bauer, among others.

Plus, Laura Ashley and Marimekko have remained with Revman. Diane Piemonte, who has been Revman’s vice president of creative services almost from the beginning, said, “We build relationships with our customers through these brands. We also do a really good job of making sure that the quality is right and the service is good.”

According to Roman, Piemonte herself has played a crucial role in the relationships forged with these brands. “She was the first creative person we hired,” Roman said. “She has been dedicated, thorough and tireless. She is now a senior advisor to the brand people. I regard her as an associate of mine, not just an employee.”

Like all vendors, Revman has had to adapt with the times during these 25 years, during which much more has changed in the textiles industry beside the demise of the mill model of business. To Roman, the biggest change he has seen is the consolidation of the retailers. “This has been enormous and profound for the industry,” he said. “In January of 1989, there 57 buying offices that don’t exist today. Now the fewer retailers that are left are more important. They have more leverage over you.”

The slimming down of the brick-and-mortar customer base has made the relationship aspect even more important. “The relationships have become more symbiotic,” Roman said. “Planning has become more important to the point where our planning department works together with their planning departments. There is also more sophistication in shipping and compliance.”

While the population of brick-and-mortar retailers may be dwindling, Revman has had to adjust to the growth of online shopping, which has become the next wave of change in retailing. “The Internet has become huge and is still growing,” Roman said. In a way, the company is already well positioned for this major sea change. “Our product is a natural for online,” Roman said. “Designer brands are searched for on the Internet, especially by young people.”

Revman has made adjustments to the growth of online. “We now drop-ship out of our Spartanburg, S.C., facility,” Roman said. “That facility has a whole section dedicated to drop-shipping. From that, we will continue to grow with the dot-coms, and we can help them develop their businesses.”

More transformations will be on the way in Revman’s manufacturing as the situation changes in its current production locales.

“At one time, we did about 60 percent of our manufacturing in Mexico, but then we began to move more of it to China,” Roman said. “Now the situation has changed in that there is a lesser labor force in China, so we’ll shift more production back to Mexico.” Revman also has production coming from Pakistan and India.

The new showroom, the ability to move its manufacturing as times shift, the ability to adjust to the changes in retailing—all speak to the fluidity of Revman’s business. Through these past 25 years , the company continues to demonstrate that it can adjust to the tidal changes in textiles manufacturing, marketing and selling.

“Where we are at now will work for us for some time,” Roman said. “But what we do good at Revman is anticipate the future.”