By  on July 16, 2007

LONDON — Manny Mashouf, chairman and founder of the fashion retailer Bebe, has taken a 60 percent stake in the label Biba, based here.

The investment is a personal one for Mashouf, and Biba will remain separate from the Bebe business, said Michael Pearce, chief executive officer of Biba International, who owns the remaining 40 percent of the company.

"We had been looking for the right person to help make Biba stronger in every way," Pearce said. "Manny understands the label and what we are trying to do. It was a meeting of minds."

Mashouf said in a statement that he was "proud to be involved in a brand with such a unique and authentic heritage."

Pearce in March 2006 re-launched the label with an eye to transforming the once-iconic name into a high-end fashion brand. Biba, which made its runway debut in September 2006 with a ready-to-wear collection designed by Bella Freud, sells in the U.S. at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Fred Segal. The label was founded in 1964 by Barbara Hulanicki, a Polish-born illustrator turned designer turned fashion pioneer.

For more than a decade, the Biba store in Swinging London was where Hollywood stars, British royalty, schoolgirls and secretaries could buy everything from maxi coats to cherry-red lipstick and baked beans.

The fashion collections were a blend of Art Deco, Victoriana, Hollywood glam and North African exotica — and the racks were filled with bow blouses, piles of platform heels and floppy hats.

Under Pearce, the label has been relaunched as a full collection, complete with rtw, footwear, jewelry and accessories. It has received mixed reviews.

This year, the company launched a collection of sunglasses under license with the British company Inspecs.

Pearce said Biba would continue to operate out of London. He and Mashouf plan to open a flagship in London's Mayfair next summer, followed by a store in Los Angeles. The company is to open a sales and marketing office in New York in February.

"With the new partnership, we're now an 'Anglo-American' company, and that will make us so much stronger in the U.S.," Pearce said.Freud left the company after the fall 2007 season to focus on her own rtw collection. Beginning with the spring 2008 collection, a five-person design team overseen by artistic director Hector Castro will design the collections. Louise Goldin will be part of the team, designing knitwear.

"Biba is a 360-degree label, and I wanted a team of specialists — in print and textiles, handbags, shoes and jewelry," Pearce said.

He said Freud had been "very respectful" of Biba's heritage, but the new team would seek to move the label forward and make it more modern. "Now, we're going to watch Biba grow," he said.

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