BCBG founder and former chief Max Azria has joined bug-zapping startup ZappLight and its parent company, Clean Concept LLC, as CEO and partner, the company announced Wednesday.
ZappLight is a “2-in-1” LED light bulb and bug zapper, according to a company press release. Azria is bringing “his decades of expertise in building business empires, as well as his skills in global distribution, supply chain, product development and retail partnerships to further accelerate ZappLight's growth into global markets,” the company said.
Azria left the fashion company he founded, BCBG Max Azria last summer, and the retailer has since filed for bankruptcy, in March.
Max Azria has traded “bon chic, bon genre," (Parisian slang for "good style, good attitude” and the basis for his former company’s name) for “buzz, zap.”
In his statement Wednesday, Azria addressed the odd shift: "Though fashion and technology are inherently different, they increasingly intersect as both are centered on pushing the boundaries of great design and in inspiring and delighting consumers,” he said. “I am thrilled to be part of this new and exciting venture to grow ZappLight into a global brand, adopted in homes everywhere to prevent virus-carrying insects.”
Mosquitos and other disease-carrying insects have come into focus in recent years, particularly the Zika virus, which can cause severe birth defects when pregnant women are ill with it, has spread worldwide. Housed along with a lightbulb, the ZappLight is one of the better-looking bug zappers; however, it hasn’t solved the problem of effectiveness. While zappers often cut down on annoying insect buzzes in their immediate vicinity, and may make people feel good about or even entertained by the audible execution of their tormenters, zappers are actually ineffective at reducing exposure to insect-borne disease, according to studies cited by the American Mosquito Control Association. Public health officials have also warned against depending on them, saying that repellents, pesticides and physical barriers (like screens, clothing or, in the case of pregnant women who can afford it, moving from a Zika-prone area) are the only effective preventive approaches.
Azria months ago moved on from the design house he founded in 1989, as its peak popularity with Hollywood actors and other style influencers waned and as apparel retail faced changing shopping patterns and consumer priorities. The brand is tackling a restructuring strategy without its longtime creative chief, Azria's wife Lubov Azria, who was fired, also in March.
"The steps we are taking now, to address the shift in customer shopping patterns and the growth of online shopping, will allow us to focus on our partner relationships, digital, ecommerce, selected retail locations and wholesale and licensing arrangements,” Marty Staff, acting interim CEO, said in a March statement about the bankruptcy. “The Chapter 11 filing will further aid the implementation of these steps and overall strategy while we explore opportunities to recapitalize the company and profitably expand our international footprint."
To that end, the company has received commitments from its existing asset-based and term loan lenders to provide financing as it regroups; it listed assets of between $100 million and $500 million and liabilities between $500 million and $1 billion, according to a court filing. The company is being advised by AlixPartners, LLP and Jefferies LLC as restructuring advisors, and by Kirkland & Ellis LLP as legal advisor.
One question is whether lenders will have the patience to see the retailer’s turnaround through. Others have not been so lucky. BCBG is just the latest in a series of retailers entering Chapter 11 protection and shuttering stores in recent months, and many, like The Limited Stores, Wet Seal and American Apparel, have buckled under the debt loads of their financial sponsors