Middle East

Stay out of the office (more or less) for a month to attend to personal matters, and what happens? Strange things! I mean, first Burberry makes its designer CEO; then Jil Sander departs her eponymous brand for the third time; and now it turns out Permira, the European private equity firm, is in the running to take a minority stake in Versace. Yup – that same Permira that in 2007 achieved the dubious distinction of paying more for a luxury brand – EURO 2.6 billion for Valentino Group – than any PE firm ever, only to write it down by more than half two years later. That same Permira that became a poster child for why luxury and private equity don’t mix. That same Permira that now, apparently, begs to differ. The question is why? Hope springs eternal? Or something a little more strategic? Read more

Ok, I know it’s the womenswear season and all eyes are on hemlines in New York (and soon London), but something is happening in menswear to which no one seems to be paying much attention, but that strikes me as worth a stop and think: various Chinese groups are snapping up classic western tailoring brands like they are M&Ms. And the ownership change is reaching critical mass. Read more

So now we are deep in the London menswear , the beginning of a three-week cycle through Milan and Paris, and I thought in honour of the start of the run, I’d share some astonishing facts I was told recently by the Brioni folks about employment and spend.

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Qatar Holding increases its share in jeweller Tiffany & Co. Getty Images

You step off the plane in your down jacket, experiencing that weird reality hit that comes with the end of the holiday: in the morning you have been cross-country skiing through woods – just you, your family and some wild turkeys – and eight hours later you are back in city traffic, and what happens? Investments. That’s what.

The rest of the US economy may be teetering on the fiscal cliff, Europe may be looking frim and luxury growth may be slowing, but in contemporary fashion, in America at least, things are getting off to a solid start. This morning, Rag & Bone, the hipster New York label, announced an investment by Irving Place Capital, the middle-market private equity fund, of about 25 per cent. Irving in the past has invested in Stuart Weitzman and denim brand Seven for all Mankind. And that follows two other such announcements by other labels. Read more

Any doubts that the Middle East is the new angel investor in luxury should be put to rest by today’s announcement from FSI, the Fondo Strategico Italiano or Italy’s strategic investment fund, and Qatar Holdings that they are setting up a JV called “IQ Made in Italy” (oooh, the word play!) to invest up to €2 billion, shared equally, in “in Italian companies operating in some of the sectors of so-called ‘Made in Italy’” – aka “sectors of excellence of Italian economy and key contributors to Italy’s exports.” Ka-ching! Read more

Wandering around the Paris presentations you pick up some interesting facts. Here are three I wanted to pass on, which have to do with accessories (prospects for the future of), and which surprised me. Read more

Oooooh, I sense another Fashion Week trend! After the Qatari sovereign wealth fund bought Harrod’s in 2010, and an un-named Qatari bought a large minority chunk of Anya Hindmarch in August – and following the Qatari royal Family’s purchase of Valentino the month before — now a private equity fund, AGC, backed by Middle Eastern investors, has taken the bulk of the minority stake in UK ready-to-wear brand Amanda Wakeley, a go-to label for the Duchess of Cambridge (that’s her, wearing AW, in both photos below). Does no one else think something significant is going on? Read more

Let’s do a quick recap here: in the last two years the Qatari soverign wealth fund has bought all of Harrod’s and a 5.2% stake in Tiffany’s; the Qatari royal family bought Valentino; and yesterday, it was announced that An Unnamed Qatari Investor had bought 38% of Anya Hindmarch. There’s a new luxury player in the land, and he – or she — is spending! But who is this masked man? And why are the Qataris suddenly making such a big play in luxury? Read more

In all the hoo-ha and excited fashion flagellation that has been generated since Joan Juliet Buck’s incredibly ill-conceived profile of Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad ran in Vogue last year, culminating this week in a mea culpa/excuse of a behind-the-scenes explanation in Newsweek that gave the on-line community yet another reason to castigate fashion (sucker! appears to be the general opinion, not incorrectly), one thing has struck me: why was anyone surprised by this?  Read more

I was struck by the fact, watching President Obama’s speech last night announcing the death of Osama Bin Laden, that for the occasion he had donned classic commander-in-chief mufti. Read more