By  on July 31, 2014

John Hardy, the luxury jewelry brand known for handcrafted designs utilizing sustainable materials, has been acquired by the Catterton private equity firm, WWD has learned.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

WWD has also learned that Robert Hanson, formerly chief executive officer of American Eagle Outfitters Inc. and, earlier, global president of Levi Strauss & Co., has been named John Hardy’s ceo. The company was purchased from another private equity firm, 3i.

Hanson succeeds Damien Dernoncourt, who will retain an equity stake in the company and becomes non-executive chairman. Hanson has also become a partner with a stake in the business. Catterton will own what was described as “a significant majority” of the company.

Guy Bedarida continues as creative director and head designer and Miles Graham continues as president and chief operating officer.

Asked about the strategy going forward, Hanson told WWD: “The priority is absolutely enhancing the productivity at our current customers,” which include Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Harrods and Lane Crawford, independent jewelers and the handful of John Hardy stand-alone stores in Hong Kong, Jakarta and Bali. The brand is sold in 27 countries and more than 600 retail doors, as well as online.

Hanson, explaining “the levers” behind boosting productivity, cited enhancing product development and extending the product architecture, aggressive marketing to sharpen the brand identity, a stronger emphasis to build up the strongest-trending categories and “really supporting” the core business. He mentioned bringing innovation and opportunities in gold, diamonds, precious stones and color, and optimizing John Hardy’s four main collections: Classic Chain, Dot, Naga and Bamboo, which could be “built out.” John Hardy recently signed model Cara Delevingne to be the face of its new jewelry campaign.

John Hardy stores could be another growth opportunity. “It’s not a significant part of our business. It’s something we will take a look at,” Hanson said.

“I was very thoughtful in looking at my next project,” said Hanson, who left American Eagle in January. John Hardy, he said, seemed exceptional given its “narrative, artisanship and sustainability.”

The John Hardy jewelry collection, founded by Canadian designer and artist John Hardy in 1975, after he visited Bali, witnessed how jewelry is made there and began collaborating with the island’s artisans. Originating from Bali, the inspiration for John Hardy’s collections comes from nature and the tradition of handcrafted artisanship and jewelry making. The company has a compound in Bali where much of the jewelry is created and uses 100 percent reclaimed gold and silver. The headquarters is in Hong Kong, and there are also offices in New York, where Hanson will be based. Most of John Hardy’s revenues are generated from business in North America. Officials declined to disclose the annual revenues.

“The most appealing aspect is it really is handcrafted luxury,” Hanson noted. “Every single piece is made by hand. Each piece is quite distinctive.” The creative process is a collaboration between designers and hundreds of local craftsmen — illustrators, wax carvers and metalsmiths, and the jewelry has an East Asian, timeless aura.

“Our consumer is really focused on seeking out unique and meaningful beautiful jewelry,” Hanson said. “That’s what attracted me to this brand.”

He also cited the opportunity to work with Catterton, which he said brings operational expertise to the brand, as well as supporting growth strategies. Hanson said he will go through a transition period with Dernoncourt.

“With Catterton, John Hardy will have a robust platform to enhance its already exceptional brand and accelerate its growth trajectory. We are confident that John Hardy offers substantial upside through multiple paths for expansion,” said Michael Chu, managing partner at Catterton.

Added Dernoncourt: “Catterton will provide the support and resources to continue building our brand and accelerate our growth on an international scale.”

Catterton focuses on small to middle-market consumer companies and has partnered with luxury brands including Restoration Hardware, Baccarat, Pirch and Frédéric Fekkai, though it invests in all major consumer sectors. It plays active operational roles in the companies it invests in.

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