The financial successes of Michael Kors, Brunello Cucinelli and others have helped create a wave of not only designers striving to make it big but investors wanting to buy in early.
This story first appeared in the November 6, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Connecting the two groups is the aim of Elsa Berry, who has gone out on her own and founded Vendôme Global Partners, an investment bank. Berry, a New York native who was raised and educated in Paris and is managing director, comes at the task with a decidedly global point of view.
“For many years, small, growing companies had sometimes decades in front of them to grow in the United States before they had to think about international,” Berry said. “Everything is faster: their own growth, the traveling of Chinese, Brazilians, Russians around the world. Brands really are visible sooner, and smaller companies can earlier in their growth pattern start thinking about other pockets of growth in other parts of the world.”
The idea is to develop relationships with promising brands early and connect them with the right consultants, financing and investors to help them grow, and then, when the time comes, help them find a buyer.
Berry said she wants to take the challenges facing growing businesses and put them on a “human scale.”
“That means it’s really sensitive to people and not just an organizational thing,” she said. “Owner to owner — understanding the psychology of the issues and understanding what goes through the head of a founder when they have to think about whether or not now’s the right time.”
These are issues Barry understands as both a banker and an entrepreneur. The company’s name is a play on Place Vendôme, the luxury hub in Paris, as well as Vendôme & Co., the mergers and acquisitions firm Berry founded in 1983 and ultimately sold to BNP Paribas. There was also an unrelated Vendôme Luxury Group that a decade ago grouped the luxury holdings of Compagnie Financière Richemont before being subsumed into the overall group.
The new Vendôme will focus on businesses in the apparel, beauty and accessories spaces that have annual sales of roughly $50 million to $300 million.
Berry is a refugee of sorts from big banking, having spent years connecting buyers and sellers for the likes of BNP and Houlihan Lokey. But now she can color outside the lines at her own discretion as she seeks to link up with promising businesses, even if their sales fall outside of Vendôme’s sweet spot.
“As entrepreneurs, we will look [at smaller businesses],” she said. “We don’t have a certain minimum success fee that we have to have. We’re more interested in the story. We’re building along with our clients.”
Berry said there are plenty of buyers for good brands, from the luxury giants with portfolios of designer brands, to private equity firms and wealthy families and investors in the Middle East, Russia, Asia and Brazil.
Despite all the focus on the global market, Berry said New York is the right base for her new venture.
“New York is coming back as a center for creativity in design and fashion and jewelry and accessories,” she said. “This is a return. It had not been that way for many years. I feel a lot more creativity — and in [Los Angeles] to be fair. It’s almost like there’s a mini American Renaissance where there’s confidence and there’s creativity. You have these brands that are starting and they’re dreaming right away about how they can make a sale, à la Michael Kors.”