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Phi ‘Too Niche’ to Survive

Yesterday, Phi announced it would shutter owing to the economic climate. Funded by computer magnate Michael Dell’s wife, Susan Dell, the label was praised by critics and adored by socialites like Vanessa Traina and Dree Hemingway. However, Lauren Sherman on the Fashion Beat reminds us that good press and exposure don’t always translate into sales. We often popped into the Phi boutique on Greene Street, but 90 percent of the time we were, awkwardly, the only ones in the store, reluctantly refusing the complimentary Champagne while tucking painfully high price tags back into perfectly spaced garments.

Phi’s CEO, Julia Hansen, said the decision to close Phi was based on “the overarching economic climate and the downward pressure on luxury goods over the next 12 to 24 months.”

“It’s just very difficult to look forward with confidence against the opportunity in that market,” she said. “The realization is that for a smaller brand, it’s going to be a very challenging time even beyond 2010.”

She added that Dell, who wasn’t involved in Phi’s day-to-day operations, agreed it was time to close the label. Sherman reports:

As a source familiar with the situation told me this morning, “It was just too niche. Great design, very hip and cool. But it appealed to a very limited audience.”

The source went on to say that Susan Dell was still pouring quite a bit of money into the company; she didn’t want to fund it any more.

How much could it be for a Dell, right? The Dells pour lots of money into charitable causes and things to benefit their community in Austin, Texas, where Amy Odell’s from (great work on the JCC, guys!). Maybe funding a bondage-y, New York–cool label is one of those flashy things rich people don’t feel comfortable doing anymore — like throwing parties, buying money clips at Tiffany’s, or owning a yacht that changes color in the sun like Roberto Cavalli’s.

Expect to find items on sale in the Phi store through January and a big warehouse sale at the end of next month.

Phi Brand to Shutter in January [WWD]
What Really Happened At Phi? [Fashion Beat]

Phi ‘Too Niche’ to Survive