06 January 2010

Who's buying Prada?

 

It’s one of fashion’s worst-kept secrets that Miuccia Prada and her husband and business partner, Patrizio Bertelli, would like to find a backer for their label.

Today, the rumour mill ground out the idea that luxury watch and jewellery company Richemont (whose brands include Chloé, Cartier, Montblanc and Van Cleef & Arpels) may well buy a third of Prada, giving the label the stability it needs to ‘expand into developing markets’ ie, open shiny new Prada shops in countries like China. Richemont have denied the move.

It is common for fashion houses to be owned or part-owned by powerful companies who actually made their cash selling something other than clothes. High fashion is expensive to produce and if one season a collection does not make back the money invested (or ‘sell though’) then the bigger company can absorb this loss. The best example of this is LMVH, which owns Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior. A deal with heavyweight Prada would make Richemont a rival conglomerate that could start competing with luxury giants like LVMH.

Following a profitable decade in the ’90s – Prada was valued at £3.5bn in 2000 – the company began to expand rapidly. Mr Bertelli went on an expensive spending spree buying up fashion labels including Jil Sander, Helmut Lang and Fendi, while Ms Prada’s love of designing beautiful futuristic stores with famous architects has also come at a price.

The husband and wife team are among fashion’s most intriguing characters. Miuccia is often described as an intellectual, well-known for her qualifications in politics (she has a PhD in political science) and her appreciation of conceptual art, which influences her catwalk designs. Mr Bertelli, Prada’s chairman and CEO, who along with Miuccia owns 95% of the brand, is known for his passion for business and perfectionist approach towards the Prada product (he is rumoured to have once thrown thousands of dollars worth of handbags from a window after judging them to be poorly designed).

Together they are a powerful fashion force and, with new financial backing, the luxury label could be unstoppable. The fashion industry will be watching and waiting to see what the new decade might hold for its favourite designer brand. [nypost]

 


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