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Falchi, Caribbean Joe Deals in Works

Firms in talks to buy two brands.

Deals are bubbling in the apparel and accessories worlds.

This story first appeared in the April 30, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Carlos Falchi, whose product range extends from exotic skins sold at luxury stores to value-driven designs that sell out on home shopping, is expected to be sold soon. Meanwhile, Rousso Apparel Group is talking to Fashionology Group LLC about buying the operating company of Caribbean Joe and becoming a licensee of the brand, according to market sources.

Sources told WWD a deal for Falchi could be concluded next week with a group that includes Windsong Brands’ William Sweedler, Stuart Jameson of Radius Partners and Marvin Traub of Marvin Traub Associates.

Falchi will retain artistic control. He designs handbags, belts, evening bags, jewelry and ready-to-wear. Vivid colors, unusual patterns and unique leather treatments are his signature.

The partners declined to confirm the deal, though Traub did express the potential to roll out the Falchi merchandise. “He has a very successful brand that distributes to many good [high-end] stores and another separate business on home shopping,” Traub noted. “He’s a very nice guy and has a very good personality for building a brand.”

Last week, Falchi made an appearance at Bergdorf Goodman to celebrate his 30-year collaboration with the store and help sell his wares. “We have a great relationship,” said the designer during his personal appearance. “One of the most important things to me is that all my bags are made by hand in New York.”

Falchi, who offered crocodile bags in acid green and python clutches in tangerine, loves luxury with bags ranging from approximately $2,000 to $5,000. “I always tell my staff, I love color,” said Falchi. “I can taste it.”

He’s considered a master leathersmith, with an eclectic clientele that over the years has included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Tina Turner, Madonna, Cher, Nancy Reagan, Sienna Miller, Jessica Simpson and Eva Longoria Parker. Falchi, a native of Brazil, moved to New York City in 1964 and began working as a night manager at Max’s Kansas City night club, where he began designing stage costumes for Miles Davis, Mick Jagger, Elvis Presley and Turner. According to Falchi’s Web site, Herbie Hancock’s wife pressured him to show samples to Geraldine Stutz, who was a buyer for Henri Bendel at the store, before she ended up running it. As the story goes, Stutz was more impressed by the satchel in which he carried his samples, so she ordered bags on the spot and thus his accessories collection was conceived.

As for Caribbean Joe, Victor Rousso, chief executive officer of Rousso Apparel Group, told WWD, “We’re looking at it, we’ve made an inquiry.” He emphasized there is no informal or formal offer on the table, and that the parties are “not even close to one yet.”

According to sources close to the talks, the buyer would purchase the operating company so it can ramp up immediately and not have to start from scratch and then sign a licensing agreement entitling it to produce and market Caribbean Joe. Brand Matter, a Fashionology company set up to own the intellectual property of the parent’s portfolio of consumer brands, would retain ownership of the IP of Caribbean Joe and will receive the royalties as licensor.

Financial sources believe it could take another month before a deal is completed. Wholesale volume of Caribbean Joe is in the $100 million range. A spokeswoman for Fashionology declined comment.

Hilco Consumer Capital Corp. and Windsong Brands are the primary owners of Fashionology, which also owns Ellen Tracy.