The news that Valentino have been bought by Mayhoola, an investment group thought to be backed the Qatari Royal family, is the sign of a trend in fashion finance.It follows recent rumours that Doctor Martens are being bought by Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman, and his investment fund Pamplona Capital, as well as Cerruti and Gianfranco Ferre being snapped up by retail groups over the last couple of years.
The Qatari Royal family might have even started this by buying Harrods from Mohamed Al-Fayed in 2010.
This deal certainly makes sense in the fashion world. Valentino is a couture house and so – like the rest of couture – has a significant proportion of its clientele now in the Middle East. With these buy-outs more and more frequent, some work better than others. P
ringle of Scotland, bought by the Hong Kong-based Fang brothers in 2000, posted losses of $7.2 million for 2011, and ex-Balenciaga designer Alistair Carr – a much-heralded appointment – lasted less than a year as design director.
By contrast, Swiss firm Labelux (who also own Bally and Derek Lam) bought Jimmy Choo last year, with figurehead Tamara Mellon stepping down. A 20% profit increase was announced this week.
Perhaps it’s about how you spin it. While Carr was hardly given time to put his stamp on Pringle, his two shows suggested a vision a bit too fashion-forward for the customer base of a 185-year-old knitwear brand. Valentino – like Jimmy Choo – is able to appeal across markets. Along with the history of Valentino Garavani himself – highly prized in our heritage-hungry culture – the brand has been given a boost since design duo Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Picciolo took over in 2008. Previous design director, Allessandra Facchinetti, was dismissed after less than a year in the job – reportedly Garavani was displeased that she didn’t reference his past work. Chiuri and Picciolo worked by his side for many years. They have evolved the brand while keeping a balance with the heritage, and brought it to a new audience.
Once worn by the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Onassis, it had become a little old-fashioned – for ladies who lunch. Chuir and Picciolo updated it – introducing short lengths, flats and interesting new takes on the trademark lace and signature red. Now it is following the Chanel model – the likes of Alexa Chung, Olivia Palermo and Clemence Poesy wear the brand, making it relevant to a younger generation. While it’s sad that such an iconic Italian brand is no longer in Italian hands, fashion knows this is the way of the world. As long as Chiuri and Picciolo are allowed to continue on their promising path, the rave reviews – and, presumably, the sales – will keep rolling in.
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