By  on November 19, 2008

LONDON — Allegra Hicks, the ready-to-wear and home furnishings firm that counted Gwyneth Paltrow, Brooke Shields and Oprah Winfrey among its clients, is the latest British name to fall victim to the credit crisis.

On Wednesday, chief executive officer Pia Marocco said the company founded by Allegra Hicks in 2003 has gone into administration, the U.K. equivalent of Chapter 11. Marocco and co-owner and designer Allegra Hicks are hunting for an investor to shore up the company, she added.

“We built a wonderful brand that went beyond clothing into home interiors and accessories. It would be a pity for us to let it go,” she told WWD. “It offers a great opportunity to an investor.”

Over the past year, London-based labels including Biba, Hardy Amies, Ghost and Marchpole, the clothing manufacturer and owner of the Jean-Charles de Castelbajac label, have all gone into administration.

Earlier this month, Ghost was rescued by U.K. retail entrepreneur Touker Suleyman, who said he plans to position it as “an aspirational luxury brand.” Hardy Amies was purchased by the private investment fund Fung Capital.

Meanwhile, Icelandic retail investment group Baugur, while not in administration, is struggling with upwards of $2 billion in debt, which is now in the hands of the beleaguered Icelandic government. Baugur has stakes in companies including Saks Fifth Avenue, Matthew Williamson and London label PPQ and also owns a string of U.K. specialty chains.

Allegra Hicks pulled out of London Fashion Week in September at the last minute after sponsors cut back on funding for the show. Marocco said the hunt for investors was going well earlier in the year, but August trading was weak, and sales softened further in September and October.

“Wholesale was not strong for winter, and sales on Madison [Avenue] collapsed — not just for us but for a lot of stores on the street,” she said. The company’s U.S. wholesale accounts include Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Ron Herman in Los Angeles.

Hicks opened her Madison Avenue unit in March 2007, a 750-square-foot store designed by her husband, Ashley Hicks, an interior and furniture designer. The Allegra Hicks store in London, on Pont Street, is breaking even, Marocco said. The company’s annual sales are under $10 million.

Earlier this year, the outlook was rosy at Allegra Hicks: Business was growing by 40 percent year-on-year, and the two partners were scouting space for a third store in L.A.�

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