7 On Your Side: High-end retailer leaves fledgling designer out big bucks

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 06:31PM
Nine Pineda reports on the struggle between a Brooklyn designer and a company that refuses to pay her back.


LONG ISLAND CITY, New York - Calypso St. Barth is a high-end retailer with stores on Madison Avenue and other exclusive locales like the Hamptons and Short Hills, NJ. It's a far cry from one of their designer's studios located in her apartment, a 5th floor walk up in Brooklyn.

That's why this former contractor is so mad she's hasn't been in paid by Calypso for more than half a year.

They wouldn't open the door to the Long Island City offices of Calypso St. Barth, where a few days before we had waited to speak to the CFO of the luxury retailer.

We were shown the door after asking why the boutique brand blew off the bill of this millennial fashion designer.

"They owe me $22,300," said Michelle Wu, a designer.

She's talking about Calypso St. Barth - an upscale woman's retailer - with posh boutiques worldwide, around here the big buck boutiques grace everywhere from Madison Avenue to the Hamptons to Short Hills, New Jersey.

Wu borrowed money from family to design and hand make Calypso more than 200 sweaters.

Per the contract, she was supposed to get paid within a month. But now, six months later, she hasn't seen a dime. But the store? Well it's already sold out of her sweater.

"They're making money off of something," said Wu. "They haven't paid me for and it's frustrating."

And Michelle says each time she tried to get an answer from Calypso? Crickets.

"I just wish I knew when I could expect, so I could tell people that I owe money to," said Wu.

So we went to ask why they delay, looking for Calypso's CFO? We were shown the door, but hours later a Calypso representative told Wu she would be paid in full. But when she tried to collect?

"We came here to get our check because they told us we could get it last week an we waited all day they basically ignored us," Wu said as she left crying.

Wu's not alone - our investigation found just days ago the New York City Department of Finance disclosed Calypso St. Barth hadn't paid nearly $80,000 in city taxes.

And it owes big time back rent. Ealier this year, Calypso's Queens landlord, Skillman Avenue Corp. took it to court and won a $160,000 judgment. A warrant to evict has been issued.

Calypso's representative said it "regrets any difficulties Michelle has experienced because of the delayed payment," telling us she's got to get in line behind other vendors waiting for payment even longer. The spokesperson blamed everything from struggles in the retail industry to the recent Hurricane-- Irma, affecting some of their stores this month; but six months after Wu's bill should have been paid.

Full statement from "The Calypso Team":
We certainly regret any difficulties Ms. Wu has experienced because of the delayed payment. However, it would be inappropriate to give preference to one vendor over multiple other constituencies. We just can't do that.
Calypso is a small retail business headquartered in Queens, New York. ABC's own coverage of the retail sector has aptly described the struggles that we and other retailers have experienced and are enduring.
On top of this, the hurricanes over the past few weeks have been extremely difficult for so many -- including us, our employees, vendors, store owners, and communities. We are all working tirelessly to get to the "other side." We have many stores and team members in the Caribbean, Texas, Florida, South Carolina & Georgia. The well-being of our teams and achieving stability in those locations is at this time our top priority.
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