Fashion designers have engaged in an unprecedented round of musical chairs as retailers court them in an effort to fight their way out of a deteriorating sales climate. There is no single direction or trend among the switches these well-known designers are taking, except that mass merchants, discounters and department stores have become equal opportunity competitors in the bidding process.

Isaac Mizrahi, the long-time and highly successful supplier of cheap chic to Target, heads uphill to become creative director of struggling Liz Claiborne Inc. Meanwhile, Claiborne, which has sold off several brands, has licensed the once-upscale Dana Buchman brand to Kohl’s.

Tommy Hilfiger USA has said goodbye to Bon-Ton, Dillard’s and Belk in order to give Macy’s an exclusive. And, without using his, or the Polo name, Ralph Lauren has designed a new collection, called American Living, for J.C. Penney.

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