By  on February 5, 2008

Bluestar Alliance is pumping up its apparel portfolio with the acquisition of junior brand Hot Kiss.Bluestar, which also owns Liz Lange and Harvé Benard, acquired a majority stake in the $100 million Hot Kiss Inc. for an estimated $20 million from founder Moshe Tsabag, who will stay on as director of marketing and merchandising. The design and sales staff also will stay on, according to the company."Moshe has a merchandising eye unlike anyone in the market," said Bluestar chief executive officer Joey Gabbay. "With money behind him, Hot Kiss can really take off."Bluestar predicts Hot Kiss — which sells at retailers including Nordstrom, Macy's, Wet Seal and Dillard's — can grow to a $500 million brand in three years. Bluestar's plan includes expanding Hot Kiss' licensing business, tripling its marketing budget to about $3 million and expanding with international retail stores. The first Hot Kiss store is slated to open in May in Japan, where Bluestar plans to open 20 more stores by the end of 2009. Domestically, there are plans to open a New York and a Los Angeles store by the end of this year."It's one of those rare brands that has been kept clean since the inception 12 years ago," said Bluestar chief operating officer Ralph Gindi. "Now we can take it to the next level."Founded a year and a half ago by Gabbay and Gindi, Bluestar has grown into a $500 million apparel conglomerate. It acquired maternity brand Liz Lange in November for an estimated $50 million, following the purchase of men's brand Ron Chereskin in September, and Harvé Benard in September 2006. Next on the company's wish list is a luxury brand by the end of the year.

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