By  on February 24, 2012

Eliana Tranchesi, former owner of the Brazilian luxury retailer Daslu, died early Friday at the Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo of complications from lung cancer. She was 56 years old.

Founded as a small boutique in 1958 by her mother, Lúcia Piva de Albuquerque, Daslu was transformed by Tranchesi into a luxury powerhouse that featured in-store shops for Chanel, Prada and Hermès, and amenities such as a helipad for wealthy customers. In the mid-Nineties, when the government opened Brazil’s economy to exports, Tranchesi lured European luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Valentino to Daslu, where they opened their first shops-in-shop in Brazil. Shops for men and teens were later added. Daslu expanded into more than 20 interconnected houses in the neighborhood. In 2005, Tranchesi moved the store to Villa Daslu, a 182,900-square-foot neoclassic building in the Vila Olímpia neighborhood of São Paulo. Daslu stores in Vila Olímpia and Shopping Cidade Jardim were closed on Friday in honor of Tranchesi.

Tranchesi’s glamorous life of fashion shows and hobnobbing with Brazil’s elite unraveled in 2009 when she was convicted of fraud and tax evasion and sentenced to 94 years in prison. She spent 36 hours in jail and then was released when a judge granted a writ of habeas corpus allowing her to remain free while appealing the decision. Daslu was forbidden to import products for 13 months as a result of the charges that revealed a tax bill of 500,000 reals, or about $250,000, from the federal and São Paulo state governments. The legal troubles left Daslu on the verge of bankruptcy.

Tranchesi found an investor, Marcus Elias, head of Laep, who was known for having turned around Parmalat. Laep Investments, a local private equity fund, bought Daslu for 65 million reals, or $35.6 million. The influx of cash gave Tranchesi license to dream again. She told WWD in September that she had started an e-commerce site and was planning to open an 8,600-square-foot Daslu at the Fashion Mall in Rio de Janeiro. She spoke about a new retail concept, D-market, a potpourri of brands never before sold in Brazil, such as Leonard and Carven. Tranchesi said she was also considering the launch of a Daslu makeup and beauty line and would begin wholesaling her Daslu private label again to overseas retailers. Daslu units overseas were also in the offing.

In that interview, Tranchesi was asked if she was sorry she sold Daslu. “My entire life has been about building Daslu,” she said. “I’d much rather see it expanding in another’s hands. The company doesn’t die. It gets a chance to go on. That’s exactly what we needed.”

Tranchesi had been battling lung cancer since 2006, when she had a tumor removed.

The divorced Tranchesi is survived by her brother, Antonio Carlos Piva, who was convicted along with Tranchesi, and three children.

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