BNET's 10 Biggest Fashion-Business Faux Pas in 2010

Last Updated Dec 15, 2010 10:08 AM EST

In 2010, fashion businesses made missteps in everything from design to manufacture and sale -- and if you were here, you were there. From management decisions in questionable taste to mystifying merchandising, we singled out the truly awful in hopes there won't be a repeat performance in the new year.

Rodarte's misguided MAC makeup names -- What were Kate and Laura Mulleavy (the sisters behind the fashion design house of Rodarte) thinking when they selected the colors and controversial names for the makeup line they created in collaboration with MAC cosmetics (EL)? They claimed they were inspired by the Mexican landscape. Naming a nail polish "Juarez," after the impoverished Mexican factory town best known for its lack of police intervention in the rapes and murders of young women just shows it sometimes pays to take your eyes off the drawing board to bone up on current events.

Talbots' flagging effort to dump the frump -â€" The women's apparel chain squeezed out a profit in the last quarter, but it's scarcely out of the woods. And it doesn't look like it's going to see the light of a real sales boost any time soon, even with a profusion of trendy leopard prints. Talbots needs to get an infusion of original designs and a new merchandising scheme in place -â€" fast.

LVMH flexes a financial muscle like The Situation â€"- In a move that mimics the posturing guidos of Jersey Shore, luxury company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton grabbed 17.1 percent of Hermès for a total of 1.45 billion euros. Analysts and traders were aflutter wondering about the prospects of hostile takeover. Indeed LMVH chief Bernard Arnault is no stranger to sparking takeover wars. He wrestled control of Vuitton and LVMH in the late 80s in a similar fashion -- turning the family of owners against each other and then launching a hostile takeover bid. He tried to do that again with Gucci in 1999.

You can't blame Arnault for wanting to controlling the French fine leather goods brand (who wouldn't want access to an unlimited supply of Birkin bags). But pitting the descendents of the 173-year old company against each other is simply in poor taste.

Belk's rickety re-branding -- The biggest change to roll out of the southeastern retail scene in a while is the re-branding of Belk department stores. However it takes more than a font revision and a new catchphrase to coax reluctant shoppers to take a second look at a tired retailer. Belk's going with the line, "Modern. Southern. Style." But team Belk needs to take a hard look at what's missing from its own sales floor â€" and its competitors around the region (hint: stylish plus sizes, more exclusive brands like Free People (URBN), competitively priced formalwear for men and women, accessories such as scarves and handbags) and get on sourcing those, effective immediately.

Mark Ecko counts on a convict -- Marc Ecko, founder of the eponymous streetwear line and a host of other urban/hip-hop branded apparel, used an incarcerated Lindsay Lohan in a holographic ad campaign for his Cut & Sew line. Ecko claimed he "wanted to create a woman so dangerous, that if she were to exist in the real world, it would kill me." Unfortunately it's not the dame, but Ecko's investment in such multimedia initiative that's likely to hasten the company's demise.

Betsey Johnson's blunder -â€" Once the undisputed queen of quirky chic, Johnson must've suffered brain damage from turning too many cartwheels on the catwalk. Otherwise, why else would she allow herself to be backed into such a corner for her designs? Steve Madden (SHOO) swooped in to forgive Betsey Johnson's $48.8 million loan in exchange for ownership of the brand's intellectual property. Though it's not a repeat of Madden's prison sentence for securities fraud and money laundering, the whole deal is kind of skeezy.

Ralph Lauren's little brand-equity shredder -- JCPenney's (JCP) management sipped too much of Ralph Lauren's (RL) red-white-and-blue Kool-Aid. Indeed, the retailer's agreement with the designer (which came with a hefty $1 billion sales tag) stipulated that any unsold apparel and home furnishings with labels and logos that could not be removed without damaging the merchandise had to be destroyed.

Though it's fairly common practice among retailers with overstock to ship the goods en masse to the bargain bins of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls (TJX) -â€" the destruction clause is surprising (not to mention tacky) coming from the always-impeccable Lauren.

Hollister's bedbug breakdown -- Hollister's (ANF) flagship 40,000 square foot store (a.k.a. Hollister Epic) in Manhattan's trendy SoHo was inexplicably closed due to "maintenance" in July. Turns out the place was crawling with bedbugs -- but the store's management ignored it for nearly a month. When another Manhattan location of Hollister's parent Abercrombie & Fitch was also found harboring the bloodsucking pests you would think action would be swift and definitive. Not so.

"Customers would be allowed to return purchases to the stores, where products will be properly quarantined before being sent back to Abercrombie & Fitch headquarters in New Albany, Ohio." No future discounts, no special customer service initiative to handle complaints and questions, nothing.

Walmart's weak stand on toxic jewelry -â€" In the scurry to strategize its way through a product recall of Miley Cyrus jewelry thought to contain toxic levels of cadmium, Walmart (WMT) made some serious mistakes. First, issuing this lame excuse to parents of Cyrus' legions of tween fans: the jewelry was not intended for children. Then a voluntary withdrawal and the revelation that Walmart knew about the toxic product for months before it took it off the shelves. Bad form Walmart. Very bad form.

Dogeared Jewelry's dreadful movie tie-in merch -â€" What's on women's holiday most wanted list? You can bet it won't be those little charms and bracelets inspired by the movie Eat, Pray, Love. Why? Because while the book was wildly popular, the movie earned plenty of rotten tomatoes from critics and movie-goers alike. Worse, the film's star Julia Roberts hardly sported a single bauble as she traveled to an ashram in India and a rustic town in Indonesia. In short, the team from LA-based Dogeared Jewelry should have heard the dogs barking before this idea made it off the drawing board.