Peterman Reboots

The quirky catalog owner lost everything, including his name, by overexpanding. Now he's back and plans to get big slowly

Fabiana whistled for the stable boy. He came. She whipped her crop against her boot. "Saddle my horses." (Tie-back chiffon blouse. $135) --From the J. Peterman catalog, fall 1998

In the fantasy-filled, you-can-have-it all '90s, John Peterman was the ultimate purveyor of armchair-adventure shopping. His floridly written catalog pulled in a cult following--and $75 million a year in sales--by hawking evocative clothing, furniture and collectibles to upscale shoppers. Peterman outfitted Frank Sinatra and Oprah Winfrey and got a priceless p.r. boost when the TV megahit Seinfeld parodied him on its show.

Blessed with this free publicity and a vision of a...

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