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?
Oooh, the trash talk out of Milan. Having finally woken up to the fact that London Fashion Week is getting buzzier, and that such a development could be a threat to Milan, its collections, and the related economic windfall that comes to a city during showtime, Milanese designers are joining forces to defend their territory – but the infighting has already begun. The gossip and name-calling is fun to watch, but behind it is a real issue currently afflicting every fashion week: the tension between national industry interest and a brand’s self-interest.
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?
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?
Yesterday LNK Partners, a White Plains, NY-based P.E. firm, announced they had closed a second $400 million fund (oversubscribed, natch), specifically aimed at investing in “the consumer/retail sector.” Yes, yet more proof that all of us who thought when Permira sold Valentino to the Qatari royal family, it marked the end of PE’s brief flirtation with the unpredictable world of fashion were wrong. There’s life in that there investment relationship yet.
Mayor Bloomberg said it in his speech: “this is the Oscars of the East Coast.” Tom Ford said “There’s more fashion here than at the Oscars.” They were both talking, of course, about last night’s Met Gala, which raises an enormous amount of money for the museum’s Costume Institute (most of its annual operating budget, according to a spokesperson), works as highly effective advertising for all the fashion houses that participate, and, this time, also provided an unprecedented launch pad for a new brand. And you thought it was just a party. Hah.
So far the hands-down best moment of New York fashion week (for me, of course) has been the Miguel Adrover show, a mad romp back in time to the days when there was an actual underground in this city’s designers, and men and women existed who just Had to Make Fashion, with nary a care for a commercial component.
Euromonitor has a new report out, and this one’s a doozy: it says Poland is the world’s fourth fastest growing luxury market behind China.
Which companies will get a business bounce from last night’s Golden Globes? The pictures have been sent round the world, and will play out not just today, or throughout the week in various newspapers and weekly gossip mags, but for months as other glossies re-visit celebrity looks of the year.
Two interesting new relationships popped up on the fashion radar on September 9, to be publicly consummated in November.