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PARIS — Adding to its arsenal of specialty manufacturers, Chanel said Tuesday it acquired Scottish cashmere specialist Barrie Knitwear, maker of the French fashion house’s iconic two-tone cardigans.
This story first appeared in the October 17, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Chanel purchased the business and assets from Dawson International Trading Ltd., which was placed under administration on Aug. 15. Financial terms were not disclosed.
“Our objective is to keep this know-how alive,” Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel fashion, told WWD.
He noted that knitwear represents about 30 percent of Chanel’s ready-to-wear business in unit terms, and characterized it as an important area of development for the company.
“It’s a way to enter the brand,” Pavlovsky said, explaining that sweaters are roughly half the price of a woven Chanel jacket, and “very fashionable.”
Based in Hawick in the Scottish Borders region, a heartland of cashmere and merino wool manufacturing since the late 18th century, Barrie currently employs 176 people. Its portfolio of brands includes Barrie, Glenmac, John Laing and Kinross, and it manufactures for other high-end brands such as Hermès.
It has been a key supplier to Chanel for more than 25 years, and Pavlovsky noted that Barrie’s particular expertise can be found nowhere else in the world. Chanel also has knitwear suppliers in Italy.
Jim Carrie is to continue as managing director of Barrie, and Clive Brown as sales director.
Dawson had been struggling with a pension debt of 129 million pounds, or $208 million at current exchange, and when the U.K.’s pensions regulator and its Pension Protection Fund refused to help, the company collapsed.
Dawson, once one of the world’s largest manufacturers of cashmere fiber and knitwear, is the former owner of Pringle of Scotland, which it purchased in 1967 and held until 2000 when it sold the brand to its current owners, the Hong Kong-based S.C. Fang & Sons Co. Ltd.
Also in the Scottish vein, Pavlovsky confirmed that Chanel and its couturier, Karl Lagerfeld, would stage a fashion show in Edinburgh on Dec. 4, unveiling its latest métiers d’art collection, a pre-fall range embellished by the couture ateliers that Chanel owns.
The company added to its complement of ateliers last month and acquired French glove maker Causse. That acquisition brought to nine the number of specialty ateliers in its Paraffection affiliate. (The others are embroidery firm Montex, the embroider Maison Lesage, gold and silversmith Goosens, shoemaker Massaro, hatmaker A. Michel, feather house Lemarié, button specialist Desrues and flower house Guillet.)
Asked if Chanel was stepping up its acquisitions, Pavlovsky replied: “It’s a question of opportunity. We want to protect and develop key know-how, not only for today, but for the next 20 years.”