Corporations, of course, are slow and can be just as obtuse and confined as any person. Don Scaccia just laughed and, with the exception of Gale Duff-Bloom (whose interest and authority were now elsewhere), there would be no change in the Penney upper management's view of Hankins's value. So he felt battered and unappreciated and totally frustrated. So close to a wonderful, largely self-made opportunity, he presently felt bound and gagged and stomped upon. He didn't know what to do, which way to move, what to think. It never entered his mind that he had already made remarkable progress for such a young talent.
Hankins pondered his "stalled" career. He consulted with Bruce Ackerman, and both eventually concluded that designing was a fast track and there was now only one way to truly capitalize on his proven capabilities as a designer.
Incredibly, there was nothing in writing to keep him there. And, with Ackerman's advice and financing, he trademarked his name and signature. Then they were goneAckerman going along to run the business part. Quickly setting up a studio and office, they selected manufacturers to turn out the line and hit the ground running.
I was LaRovere's speechwriter and had known Ackerman from earlier assignments. So I told LaRovere the Hankins story soon after they had departed. Although he had not been aware of the designer, as a merchandise executive steeped in J. C. Penney's private-brands tradition, LaRovere immediately picked up on the company's loss. Likewise, he thought that Hankins would succeed. "Style and quality for the moderate income shopper? How can they miss ?" 
"I hear the label is already hot," I said.
LaRovere sighed. "And we let this kid get away?"
"Not only that," I added. "Guess who signed up first with Hankins?"
"JCPenney?don't tell me. And now we lose half our margins because we didn't keep the kid happy." He looked stricken. "Unbelievable."
 Hankins did go on to get extensive publicity; become a star on the Home Shopping Network; and expand his line into other major chains like Nordstrom, Dayton-Hudson, Target, Sears, Federated, and Army/Air Force exchanges worldwide.