Luciano Manganella’s Final Sale

His beloved Jasmine Sola stores are slated to close next month, done in by a bad corporate marriage and a less-publicized sexual harassment scandal with him squarely at its center. To hear the chain’s brash founder tell it, though, the real victim in this sordid affair is him.

Let me tell you something: Luciano Manganella is a broken man.

At the Abe & Louie’s steakhouse on Boylston Street, he sips club soda and leans forward in the brown leather booth, bags under his eyes. He is smaller than his persona would suggest, and speaks in a voice too squeaky to be intimidating. Sixty-one now, and long ago gone gray, he still wears his fitted Seven jeans, paired today with a tight black T-shirt and a leather jacket. A few blocks away is the Jasmine Sola flagship store, the showpiece of the retail company Manganella built into an empire of expensive denim, designer loungewear, and cocktail dresses perfect for sorority formals. A month earlier, in October, New York & Company, Jasmine’s owner since 2005, announced it would shutter all 23 locations by February 2008. The prospect disgusts Manganella. He spent 35 years growing Jasmine into a multimillion-dollar boutique, and it took just two for New York & Company to run it into the ground. “They have done what I cannot even imagine people would do,” he says, in his thick Italian inflection.

But while he calls himself a victim, others say he is the one to blame for his stores’ downfall. With money came power, and with power—so say his accusers—came privileges for Manganella. Though he categorically denies all charges against him, six young women he employed both before and after New York & Company bought his chain allege that he sexually harassed them, his legendary temper keeping them quiet. Manganella was, and remains, a genius in his field. But it seems he failed to appreciate that the impulsive way he did business while turning Jasmine Sola into a Boston institution would be the very thing that would come back to doom his chance to turn it into something even bigger.

Now let Luciano Manganella tell you something: He is a passionate guy. Always has been.

When he arrived in Boston from the south of Italy in 1966, everything about New England excited him. Who knew that there were religions other than Catholicism, that there were cultures other than his native Salerno’s? The 20-year-old, unable to speak a lick of English, reveled in the adventure, the energy, the wealth of the place. “This country grabbed me like the wind,” he says.

Fashion wasn’t his plan then. But fashion was in his blood. In Salerno, Manganella’s father and brother sold fabric. One sister was a designer, and another worked in retail. In 1970, after a stint as a machinist, he heeded the family calling and opened a women’s clothing boutique with his new sweetheart, Vanda, a style maven herself, on Boylston Street (now JFK Street) in Harvard Square. Inspired by the flower-child vibe of the time, they called it Jasmine, adding the Sola when they introduced footwear to the inventory a few years later. The 275-square-foot nook held only 32 pieces of clothing on opening day, all stitched by their mothers.

Two years later, Manganella’s 18-hour workdays—mornings spent on the retail floor, afternoons in a Volkswagen bus buying fabric, evenings cutting the material, the rest of the time overseeing a growing team of seamstresses—began to pay off. He charmed his way into a lease on nearby Brattle Street. Now offering outside labels alongside Manganella’s own creations, the shop did solid sales.

He and Vanda, married now, moved to New York in 1983. By 1986 they’d separated, filing for divorce a year later. That same year, drawn to the other side of the business, Manganella started a fashion line of his own, Gruppo Americano. Ritzy department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus snapped up his collections, unable to resist the mix of Italian cuts and American sensibility, or Manganella’s seductively accented sales pitch. And as the rag trade fell for him, women did, too. “He was always charming and likable, and the girls working for me would say, ‘Oh, Luciano’s coming!’” says Tom Snowdon, a vendor who’s known Manganella for decades. “They were always flirting with him.”

Stacey Lehne was one of them. The striking 25-year-old from New Jersey was working in a designer’s showroom neighboring Manganella’s in Manhattan’s Garment District. A recent graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, she was eager to learn the trade. Manganella was apparently just as eager to instruct her. At a modelesque 5 foot 10, she was a knockout in any outfit, and for Manganella it was love at first sight. Stacey Lehne became Mrs. Manganella in 1994.

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From Manhattan, Manganella continued to direct Jasmine Sola’s every move. He oversaw the hiring and operations, spearheaded all the buying. If Manganella didn’t like something, he told you straight up—a rare quality in an industry filled with backstabbing and double talk, and one that earned him the respect of peers, employees, and vendors alike.

By the late ’80s, the Cambridge store had become a destination for flocks of teenage girls and twentysomething women from both the city and the suburbs. They loved the young-and-cool but not intimidating feel and the spree-worthy clothing and shoes. Jasmine Sola was the first to bring Boston shoppers blockbuster labels like BCBG, Theory, Custo Barcelona, Guess, Vivienne Tam, and Juicy Couture. When cult footwear designer Steve Madden was just getting started, Manganella bought shoes from him out of the back of his van.

Manganella refused to resell any Jasmine Sola merchandise—either from the store line, or vendors’—to discounters like Filene’s Basement and Marshalls. He believed liquidation would hurt his brand, since the items would still bear Jasmine Sola tags as well as the designer’s labels. With that practice adding to Manganella’s status as an industry favorite, boutique owners from across the country visited his Harvard Square shop to study inventory and note what they should order next.

In 1996, after his third daughter was born, Manganella moved his family back to Boston. Two years later, with Jasmine Sola now really taking off, he opened a second store on Newbury Street. Correctly predicting the coming designer denim boom, he was the first retailer in New England to stock jeans by Seven and Citizens of Humanity; he was also among the first nationally to sell J Brand and True Religion, whose price tags can exceed $300. By the end of 2004, he had eight Jasmine Solas spread across New England, all in enviable locales, with plans to launch 12 more. He regularly checked up on each in person, ruled attentively, and intimately knew his inventory, his customer, and his staff. “He is a retail magician,” says Felicia Gervais, a real estate consultant who worked with the Jasmine locations in the Prudential Center and Chestnut Hill. “There are not many small storeowners left in the world who have his unique sense of what works.”

By this time, national clothing companies were showing interest in buying Jasmine Sola. In 2005, New York & Company (formerly Lerner) offered $20 million, a sum Manganella flatly rejected. Then Boston-based J.Jill put a more flattering $30 million on the table. Manganella was ready to sign when New York & Company came back dangling even better terms. With 490 national stores selling practical, inexpensive clothing, New York & Company saw the higher-end, trendier Jasmine as an opportunity to step into a profitable market without cannibalizing its own brand. On t
op of its base offer of $22.5 million, it added a sweetener: $8.1 million worth of stock for Manganella, and the promise of greater exposure for his chain. That same summer, Casual Corner—an inexpensive clothing chain not unlike New York & Company—was on the market, and rumors circulated that New York & Company would buy roughly half its 550 locations and convert some into Jasmine Sola outposts.

Manganella was vacationing in Positano, Italy when he received New York & Company’s pitch. He loved what he heard. And so on July 19, 2005, New York & Company had itself a deal. Under its terms, $7 million of the buyout package would be held in escrow, available to Manganella after one year. He’d also stay on as Jasmine Sola’s president, at a salary of $350,000. For a guy who’d poured much of his earnings back into his business, it was a heady payday.

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Now let the six women tell you something: Luciano Manganella is a nasty old womanizer.

Ten months after the deal went through, a female Jasmine Sola staffer complained about Manganella to New York & Company. Three more soon came forward. In subsequent sworn testimony later filed in court, all four detailed how Manganella had sexually harassed them. While these were the first allegations brought to New York & Company’s attention, they did not represent the first time Manganella (who maintains his innocence in every case), had been accused of such misconduct.

In 1994, a 19-year-old named Sonia Bawa started working at the Harvard Square Jasmine Sola over holidays and summers. Three years later, she had a full-time position as a shop manager. Throughout the summer of 1997, she would later claim in a federal sexual harassment suit against him, Manganella often leered at her during his drop-ins to her store, telling her she had a great body. By December, she alleged, he was getting bolder, saying that if she wore a certain skirt he would visit her cash register more often. At the company holiday party, he made a big deal of kissing her goodbye on the cheek. Early in the New Year, according to Bawa’s suit, Manganella asked if she had ever seen the movie Kama Sutra. He said he enjoyed it because the women in it “were all about pleasing the male.” Then he asked, “Can you teach me the Kama Sutra?”

In July 1998, after Bawa put on a pair of pants to show a female buyer, and Manganella allegedly stuck his hands down the front of them, she decided she’d had enough. According to court documents, she phoned the Manganellas’ house one night and spoke to his wife, Stacey, who was then working as a buyer for her husband’s business. Bawa told Stacey she was considering resigning and asked to speak with Manganella. The following day, she repeated her request. But Manganella, she would later claim, was avoiding her. That day Bawa’s manager broke the news: Bawa was fired.

Bawa filed her lawsuit against Manganella in U.S. District Court in Boston in October 1999. Manganella says he settled out of court for $15,000.

Four years later, a second Jasmine Sola employee, Rachael Kennedy, hit Manganella with further accusations of sexual harassment, an unemployment claim. Manganella says he settled this matter out of court as well.

Though up to that point these were the only known sexual harassment allegations filed against Manganella, roughly a dozen Jasmine employees interviewed for this article say they can scarcely remember a time when whispers about his behavior were not swirling. That no other women came forward is ascribed by some to the way things operated in the company. “There was no clear hierarchy to go to if you had a problem,” remembers Bawa’s manager, Jeannie Dziama. And any woman who went to human resources would have found an audience with similar allegations to share.

Human resources director Donna Burgess was forced to perform oral sex on Manganella five times, the last in 2004, according to her sworn testimony later filed in court, after Manganella allegedly lured her to secluded locations, such as closed offices and a vacant construction site. Burgess didn’t feel she had any choice but to comply. “I was afraid of the way he was so volatile that if I told him no he would punish me by firing me or something worse,” she said in a deposition. During her testimony, she claimed Manganella told her she “gave the best blow job, even over my mistress.”

Lots of people in the office knew about the woman the boss was seeing on the side. Slim and fashionable, and possessing a distinctly European flair, she was hired as a Jasmine Sola sales associate in 1996 and quickly rose to buyer, the same position Manganella’s wife Stacey held. Another Jasmine Sola employee, Laura Ksieniewic, alleged in court that Manganella once gestured to her that he would slit her throat if she ever told New York & Company about his mistress.

Ksieniewic was Manganella’s girl Friday. She was like a big sister to his oldest daughter, even spending one Christmas at the Manganella home. “He would propose that we would have a sexual relationship,” she would later claim during a deposition. “He would make comments about my body. He would make comments about other women that worked for the company.” In the spring of 2006, according to Ksieniewic’s court allegations, Manganella brought her along on a jaunt to Miami. He called it a business trip, but it seemed to her more like an excuse for Manganella to enjoy a rendezvous with the mistress, who was waiting down in Florida. Ksieniewic claimed she felt nervous about the arrangement and wanted to keep her time with Manganella to a minimum, so she took a different flight. At one point during the trip, Manganella told her to speak to his wife on the phone and say he was “being good,” Ksieniewic would recall. Later Ksieniewic met Manganella in a hotel room, where, she alleged, he asked if she wanted to watch pornographic videos. According to her court allegations, he then proposed a threesome with the mistress; the women would get drunk and reenact the dirty pictures and videos. Ksieniewic was relieved when the mistress arrived shortly thereafter, and said she wished to be alone with Manganella.

Though not a member of his inner circle, another female Jasmine Sola employee, merchandiser Liz Chichester, alleged that in May 2006 Manganella invited her, too, on a personal trip to Miami, saying they could disguise the travel as work-related. According to Chichester’s court allegations, he also proposed a getaway to the French Riviera as well. When she told him no, Manganella allegedly took off his wedding ring. If the problem was his age, he said, “you can call me Uncle Luciano and everyone will think that you’re my niece,” Chichester would recall. She again refused the offer. Chichester would also later claim in court that Manganella once told her she was “fucking sexy.” On another occasion, he allegedly whispered in her ear, “Have you ever been with an Italian man?”

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Now let the executives at New York & Company tell you something:
They were blindsided by Luciano Manganella’s conduct.

Bought from the Limited in 2002 by a group of investors that included now-CEO Richard Crystal, New York & Company ran its business by accounting for every dollar and never spending a cent more than necessary. After going public in 2004 at $17 a share, it made Jasmine Sola its first acquisition. Not only did the Boston chain have a cult following and high-end wares that wouldn’t compete with New York & Company’s own namesake clothing, but it also had, in Manganella, a proven brand-builder at the helm. With the $7 million escrow payment in place, it had given him incentive to stay, and
work for continued success. If things went according to plan, Manganella would grow Jasmine Sola while New York & Company provided the infrastructure, perhaps through the acquisition of Casual Corner. Win-win for all.

But almost immediately that strategy went awry. Casual Corner, the potential framework for Jasmine Sola’s expansion, was sold to a liquidator in August 2005. And as New York & Company took Jasmine Sola into other parts of the country, it found that the brand didn’t have the same cachet as it did in New England. The startup costs for its new locations weren’t insignificant, either. With those expenses straining the bottom line, less than 12 months after the acquisition New York & Company was making half of what it had the previous year.

On May 2, 2006, according to court allegations, New York & Company’s head of HR received a call from Laura Ksieniewic’s father, a lawyer. Ksieniewic had quit her job at Jasmine Sola on April 28 and was demanding severance, saying she had been disturbed by incidents that took place during her time working for Manganella. As the conversation continued, she relayed that Manganella had sexually harassed her.

New York & Company brought in DC law firm Stier Anderson to investigate the claims. After putting Manganella on administrative leave on May 25, the attorneys sat down with select Jasmine Sola managers, buyers, and merchandisers. These sessions, which played out over the course of a month, eventually produced the allegations by Burgess and Chichester, as well as an additional sexual harassment claim from Maggie Wakeland, a buyer.

On June 30, 2006, just 19 days before Manganella was to collect his escrow payment, New York & Company filed a claim in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, alleging Manganella had committed a “major employment breach” by sexually harassing the four female employees; it also accused him of downloading “scores of sexually graphic images onto Jasmine computers.” For these reasons, New York & Company said, it was terminating its contract with Manganella. And since he was no longer employed by New York & Company, he was forfeiting the $7 million escrow payment.

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Let Luciano Manganella tell you something else: New York & Company wanted him out.

What a coincidence that not three weeks before he could cash in the $7 million, he was let go. “You have to really look at the whole picture. Thirty-seven, 38 years [with Jasmine], everything has been fine. All at once the whole world crashes down and nobody sees that there’s a large chunk of money.” When New York & Company called him into headquarters that day in late May to place him on leave, he had no idea, he says, what the meeting would be about. After the execs informed him of their investigation, they told him that until further notice he was not allowed to so much as walk into a Jasmine Sola store—his stores!—or attend any company gatherings. New York & Company wouldn’t say what he was being investigated for, he says, and he was angry and confused. He thought New York & Company felt he was doing a good job. After all, he says, it had rewarded his leadership two months earlier with a six-figure bonus.

Manganella says he didn’t learn exactly what he was being accused of until June 22, one week before New York & Company filed its official complaint against him. Sexual harassment? He would never make anyone uncomfortable; he wanted to welcome people. Giving compliments and being friendly were in his nature. He’s Italian, remember. Besides, commenting on looks is part of the fashion business, especially when you specialize in women’s clothing, especially when you are surrounded by women. Manganella identified with his female employees. “I always was like one of the girls,” he says. “I listened to their boyfriend story, their going-out story, their clothing story.”

Each of the women, he claims, had agendas for making their accusations. “They wanted to preserve their jobs and would stab you in the back to do it,” says Manganella. “If a new boss comes in and says they’ll [raise] your salary if you tell them things about your old boss, where is your loyalty?” In sworn testimony later filed in court, Manganella’s lawyer, Dan Rosenfeld, claimed that around the same time they revealed the allegations against Manganella, the accusers saw their status change at New York & Company. According to Rosenfeld, Maggie Wakeland, the Jasmine Sola buyer, would “tell you that, like Ms. Chichester and Ms. Burgess, since Mr. Manganella was terminated, she had been given some additional job perks. In her case, a new, more prestigious title, a raise and a new…compensations system.” New York & Company, in the same court documents, denies the allegations. None of the women returned calls seeking comment.

Many Jasmine Sola employees say that New York & Company quizzed only select managers, buyers, and merchandisers who had worked with Manganella. Had he ever said anything sexual or in any way inappropriate? Ever? Many of the resulting charges, Manganella says, were comments taken out of context; some didn’t happen at all, he swears. The accusations, he says, are the “most monstrous thing that ever happened to me.” In Sonia Bawa’s case, he says, the Kama Sutra incident came about thanks to a movie he’d watched on television. Some Jasmine employees were discussing films in the basement of the Harvard Square store. Manganella says he told them he had seen a nice movie, a love story. God strike him down, he says, if he ever said anything about Sonia Bawa doing the Kama Sutra with him. The allegations about him slipping his hands down the front of Bawa’s pants he finds outrageous. “I never touched anybody,” he says. “It’s absolutely untrue. I probably made a comment on the pockets, but I know exactly how to deal with a fit model…. I want to tell you something, I never, ever, ever, ever touched anyone.”

Donna Burgess, the HR rep who claimed he forced oral sex on her—her stories were untrue, too, he says. After her duties had been consolidated through the merger, he contends, he stood by her, ensuring that she had a job with New York & Company. But Burgess turned on him, he says, just as she has done with New York & Company, filing a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination alleging that New York & Company failed to protect her from Manganella.

Liz Chichester? Manganella says he barely knew her. His wanting to take her to the French Riviera—Manganella is Italian. He vacations in southern Italy, Salerno, Positano, the Amalfi Coast. Why would he go to the south of France? He’s never even been there, and he’s not planning on going anytime soon. And Ksieniewic, whose allegations sparked the investigation? If she was so unsettled by his behavior, he wonders, why did she continue to spend time at his home for months after the supposed initial advances? Why would she agree to go to the beach with him? “Most victims of sexual harassment likely wouldn’t spend their time—their free time—with a harasser, on a beach, in bathing suits,” Manganella’s lawyer Dan Rosenfeld argued in a hearing later filed in court.

Looking back, Manganella says, it all fits a pattern. At every turn, New York & Company was trying to undermine him. Though Jasmine Sola launched nine stores in the fiscal year 2006, instead of trusting Manganella to run the business as he had successfully done for 36 years, the new owners put roadblocks in his way, court documents allege, denying him access to company bank accounts and excluding him for important meetings, as well as s
ubjecting him to more-personal affronts like failing to give him the paperwork necessary for him to complete his taxes. New York & Company, the documents claim, also exercised its veto power over several real estate deals he had lined up for new Jasmine Sola stores in competitive malls, because, Manganella theorizes, prospective New York & Company outposts had previously been rejected from the same shopping centers. At the same time, he was pressured to accept new locations endorsed by New York & Company’s CEO, Richard Crystal.

Once, according to court documents, Manganella sat down with Crystal and some of his fellow executives in Crystal’s Manhattan office and told them how the New York & Company brand stores should be run. That’s just his way. He thinks perhaps Crystal considered him a threat and was looking for a way to dispose of him. “If New York & Company had come to me and said, ‘This is a situation we need to correct,’ I would have done whatever I could,” he says.

“Because this is my reputation.”

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Let the arbitrators tell you something: Luciano Manganella gets the money.

The contract that Manganella signed with New York & Company contained a clause mandating that any claims of a major employment breach would be decided in arbitration. In November 2006, his firing was taken up by a panel of arbitrators in New York. During the ensuing hearings, Manganella’s four accusers all testified against him. Manganella’s attorneys, in turn, challenged the women’s credibility, pointing out that Burgess, for example, did not bring up the oral-sex allegation during her first conversation with the Stier Anderson investigator. At the time, she said Manganella had commented on her breasts and would try to kiss her on the cheek. The oral-sex bombshell had only come out when she was being questioned before the arbitrators.

In the end, the panel determined that Manganella had failed to comply with New York & Company’s policy on sexual harassment. “The women employees who testified in this proceeding were forthright, courageous, and wounded by [Manganella’s] treatment of them,” they stated. “He failed terribly as a leader.”

But even so, Manganella ultimately won the suit. The decision boiled down to the fact that New York & Company should have provided him with written notice of the allegations against him and allowed him 30 days to remedy his behavior. On that technicality, he was awarded his $7 million, plus legal fees.

Now let other Jasmine Sola employees tell you something: New York & Company, not Luciano Manganella, killed the stores.

Before the sale to New York & Company, there were virtually no official company policies in place at Jasmine Sola. No employee conduct handbook. No sexual harassment training. Manganella believed he knew best, and staffers kowtowed to their boss just to prevent his notorious screaming sessions. On any given day, he could stroll in to check up on your store, decked out in a hip designer outfit. At times he was friendly. Perhaps he would compliment your new Miss Sixty skirt. But it didn’t take much to spark his wrath. If Manganella saw something or someone he didn’t like, he would roar, throw merchandise off shelves, bring employees to tears. He was known to fire people on the spot.

But—a lot of his employees loved him. More than a dozen recall him fondly. Even the singular management style, even the risqué remarks, which many took to be merely a byproduct of his avuncular personality. “I don’t think he ever meant to harm, abuse, or make people feel uncomfortable. I didn’t care, and neither did most of the other girls,” says Denise Lucciola, a former manager. Adds a current manager, “Some of the girls that were testifying against him, I wouldn’t believe a word coming out of their mouths.” Though they weren’t surprised when they heard the allegations, the majority of the women who spoke for this story said they never themselves felt ill at ease around Manganella. (“I think one person got angry, and this was all blown out of proportion,” says his mistress. Their romance ended a few years ago—their spouses eventually discovered the affair—but she refuses to believe he would attempt on other women the advances that she herself ultimately fell for.)

Former Jasmine employees reminisce about the friendly staff culture, how they were encouraged to take on as many or as few hours as they wanted, how their boss, though maniacal, was always on call. “He really cared,” says Lucciola. “He was fun—fun and crazy. I’d work for him again in a second.” Manganella’s staffers also appreciated how quickly he promoted talent. “Jasmine was great,” says one manager at the Newbury Street store. “I went from associate to key holder in three months.”

New York and Company’s management style, by contrast, was resolutely corporate. After it took over, there were fewer sales associates, fewer managers, and a strict bureaucratic hierarchy. Most buyers and merchandisers were transferred to the New York headquarters. “You had to go through 90 people to get an answer for something,” says one former Newbury Street manager, “when you used to be able to just call up Luciano.” Most of the remaining associates and managers quit soon after the buyout. The cuts and the turnover kept Jasmine Sola employees from providing the customer service that had been a point of pride for the stores. “Luciano would have 30 people working with me on a Saturday,” says Lucciola, “but once New York & Company came in there would be three of us. It was impossible to control everything. Who’s going to watch the door? Who’s going to put things away? Who’s going to help the customers? They were so cheap that at this point, we were begging for people.” Where there was once a surplus of job applicants, by the summer of 2007 Jasmine was resorting to filling vacant positions by advertising with fliers.

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The drastic change in merchandise also didn’t help. The formula that worked for the cheaper, mass-market New York & Company chain bombed when applied to Jasmine Sola. The new inventory was markedly inferior; under New York & Company’s buyers, the Jasmine label was sewn into scores of second-rate garments from new outside suppliers. Bargain brands more likely to be found at generic department stores poured in. The few big-name pieces left in the store were flanked by knockoffs of the same style, at low prices that were nonetheless not low enough to compete with new European megachains like H & M.

“They’d sell a Juicy Couture jumpsuit, for instance,” says Steve Simon, owner of local chainlet National Jean Company. “Then they’d have the same suit with a Jasmine tag for just 30 percent less. When Zara’s down the street—with hundreds of the same thing but for much lower price points—which are shoppers going to go for?”

But more than anything else, Jasmine Sola couldn’t work without Manganella. “That business wasn’t in [New York & Company’s] DNA,” says equity analyst Samantha Panella of Raymond James, who tracks the apparel industry.

To loyal Jasmine Sola customers, the imminent closing of the Boston institution seems surreal. There are Facebook groups devoted to saving the store. “I have customers coming in asking, ‘Are you closing because of the sex scandal?’” says a current manager at the Newbury Street location. “And I laugh every time and say, ‘Uh, no. We are closing because of New York &

Let me tell you again: Luciano Manganella is a broken man.

His hair is grayer, his face more worn than when he last barked at store managers. “The rules have changed,” he says, welling up, as we sit in Abe & Louie’s. “I grew up constantly complimenting. I didn’t know that complimenting was wrong…in a lifetime there are a lot of things that happen.”

If New York & Company follows through on its planned February shuttering, it will bring the final twist of the knife. Closing will mean that whatever Jasmine inventory is left will be liquidated, and all of the clothes that Manganella loved and refused to hand to discounters will find their way to Marshalls and TJ Maxx. “They have destroyed my professional life, my stores…. They crucified me,” he says.

But Manganella is not completely without hope. Late last fall, he made a bid to repurchase Jasmine Sola. It seemed like the perfect solution: New York & Company would recoup some of its losses; he would revive the company that had been his whole life. After that offer was rejected, he tried again and early last month received a more receptive response; the deal, if it goes through, would let him buy back five Jasmine locations and start over. There’s also a countersuit he filed against New York & Company after his firing. Through it, he’s seeking to void a noncompete agreement he’d signed with New York & Company. Because if all else fails, Luciano Manganella has a vision for a new business.

He says he would like to open a lingerie store.