By  on May 7, 2007

NEW YORK — Narciso Rodriguez has finally found himself a new partner, and it is none other than Liz Claiborne Inc.

Claiborne and Rodriguez will announce today that they have entered into a partnership, with the $4.99 billion apparel giant buying a 50 percent ownership in the designer's name and trademarks. They will create a new company to build the Narciso Rodriguez brand globally, with the designer serving as the creative director.

It was widely known in fashion circles that Rodriguez was looking for investors to build his business worldwide, and this could be the deal to help him realize his goals. It remained unclear at press time what the deal means for Rodriguez's manufacturing arrangement with Aeffe SpA, although it is possible that relationship could end. Rodriguez's unhappiness with the Aeffe relationship has been one of fashion's worst kept secrets, and Aeffe made no mention of the designer in its earnings report last month.

"Narciso's strong following and high recognition level position his business well for considerable organic growth," William L. McComb, chief executive officer of Claiborne, said in a statement. "In addition to the expansion of the existing collection business, we feel there are abundant brand extension opportunities in nonapparel and licensing categories, as well as increased international distribution. Further, we see potential in the direct-to-consumer channel on a worldwide basis."

Rodriguez said in the statement: "Collaborating with Liz Claiborne will enable me to focus on my work and all of its possibilities. Bill McComb and his team have a clear understanding of my vision and are committed to help me realize my dream."

McComb and Rodriguez were unavailable for additional comment on Sunday.

After studying at the Parsons School of Design, the Cuban-American designer started his career at Anne Klein, under Donna Karan, and later worked at Calvin Klein, Cerruti and Loewe. He became a household name after creating the bias-cut pearl silk crepe wedding gown for his friend Carolyn Bessette Kennedy. He launched his own namesake business in 1997. Rodriguez won the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year award in 2002 and 2003. He is best known for clean lines and figure-hugging dresses favored by Jessica Seinfeld, Sarah Jessica Parker, Salma Hayek and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. He added men's wear in 2005. Rodriguez's collections are sold at specialty stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman. He also has a fragrance line in a licensing deal with Beauté Prestige International.

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