Buy­ing Car­ven?

● A deal with the Shang­hai-based eco-cloth­ing com­pany is ex­pected this com­ing week.

WWD Digital Daily - - Front Page - BY TIF­FANY AP AND MI­MOSA SPENCER

Chi­nese fash­ion firm Ici­cle is said to be the

lead bid­der for the famed French house.

BEI­JING — Parisian fash­ion la­bel Car­ven is close to a sale to Chi­nese com­pany Ici­cle Fash­ion Group, with a deal ex­pected to emerge at the end of next week, ac­cord­ing to a source fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter.

The brand, which filed for Chap­ter 11 bankruptcy with the Paris Com­mer­cial Court in May, has been courted by other firms in­clud­ing Axara, Lee Cooper, Cash­tex, Philippe Mé­tivier, Mar­ket Maker and Red Lux­ury. But it is the Shang­hai-based com­pany, known for its eco-friendly line of men’s and women’s wear, that has emerged as the front-run­ner, the per­son said.

Car­ven de­clined to com­ment.

The deal is sub­ject to the de­ci­sion of the French court, which is­sues its rul­ing on Oct. 12, and is ex­pected to be worth sev­eral mil­lion eu­ros.

New po­ten­tial owner Ici­cle, while rel­a­tively un­known out­side of China, is a cloth­ing com­pany started in

1997 by Ye Shouzeng, an alum­nus and for­mer pro­fes­sor of Donghua Uni­ver­sity, one of China’s best re­garded fash­ion de­sign schools.

The com­pany be­came suc­cess­ful through its em­pha­sis on sus­tain­able sourc­ing and high-qual­ity fabrics, and counts more than 100 bou­tiques through­out China. From a de­sign stand­point, it bears min­i­mal­ist sim­i­lar­i­ties to Cos, al­though its price point reaches far higher, up to $1,500 or more for larger pieces like out­er­wear.

The source said Ici­cle had been ex­plor­ing the idea of cre­at­ing a sec­ond line when the op­por­tu­nity to buy Car­ven at a low price pre­sented it­self.

While the in­dus­try has wit­nessed an uptick of Chi­nese own­er­ship of Western fash­ion brands in re­cent years — in­vest­ments from Sept­wolves, Fo­sun and Shan­dong Ruyi come to mind — the deal is de­cribed as a kind of pas­sion project from the per­spec­tive of Ici­cle.

“It’s not like Fo­sun and Lan­vin. Fo­sun is a pure in­vest­ment com­pany — they just want to max­i­mize the as­sets, and within a cou­ple of years they will want to sell the busi­ness,” the source said. “It’s not a tro­phy as­set or a foot­ball team where you’re go­ing to over­pay loads of money you can brag about. When you look at how much [Car­ven] costs, of course, they will have to in­vest money and prob­a­bly in­vest a lot more money than it cost to buy.”

While not the pri­mary mo­ti­va­tor, snag­ging Car­ven would help place the Chi­nese group more firmly on the in­ter­na­tional fash­ion stage, the source con­tin­ued, right as it plans to ramp up over­seas ex­pan­sion of the Ici­cle brand, with a fo­cus first on France, where it al­ready has a de­sign team.

Car­ven and its par­ent com­pany, So­ciété Béranger, filed for bankruptcy pro­tec­tion in the Paris Com­mer­cial Court in May, cut­ting short a planned re­vival un­der the di­rec­tion of de­signer Serge Ruffieux, who was hired last year.

Al­ready strug­gling fi­nan­cially, the house was hit with pro­duc­tion de­lays and had to can­cel or­ders, cost­ing it sev­eral mil­lion eu­ros.

The la­bel had sold a ma­jor­ity stake to Hong Kong-based Blue­bell Group in 2016, which ap­pointed one of its ex­ec­u­tives, So­phie de Rouge­mont, as chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer.

In May, a spokesman said Car­ven counted eight share­hold­ers in­clud­ing Blue­bell, Se­baoun and Turenne Cap­i­tal.

The com­pany has nearly 100 em­ploy­ees and has an­nual rev­enues of around 20 mil­lion eu­ros.


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