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French Swimwear Brand Vilebrequin Sold

Vilebrequin, the Saint Tropez-based swim trunks company, has changed hands.

PARIS — Vilebrequin, the Saint Tropez-based swim trunks company, has changed hands.

This story first appeared in the December 7, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Fashion Fund One, a private equity fund based in the Netherlands, on Thursday said it acquired 100 percent of TRB International SA, the Luxembourg-based holding company that owns worldwide rights to the brand, from its owner, Pierre-Alain Blum. Terms were not disclosed.

It is Fashion Fund One’s second transaction since a group of former executives from the Mexx fast-fashion chain founded it last year. (Liz Claiborne Inc., which now owns Mexx, is not involved in the fund.)

Last year, Fashion Fund One purchased Secon Group, an Amsterdam company that runs men’s and women’s brands, including Arrow and Anotherwoman, in Europe.

Hans Ouwendijk, managing director of the fund, said other deals were being pursued. He declined to give details. But he said the firm was interested in building a portfolio of small to midsize fashion companies based in Europe. “We are interested in smaller brands that we can help export to different parts of Europe and internationally,” he explained.

Vilebrequin, arguably France’s most popular swimsuit brand, operates 67 stores and is sold in department and specialty stores in 16 countries.

“The company is doing very well and has nice double-digit increases every year,” said Ouwendijk. “We want to put more fuel in the tank.”

Ouwendijk said more own stores would be opened and an effort would be made to increase Vilebrequin’s wholesale accounts. He said Blum would remain a non-executive member of the company’s board.

Vilebrequin was founded in the Seventies in Saint-Tropez and quickly earned cult status among men for its bright patterned trucks that are a riff on classic surfing shorts. In the Nineties, the company expanded by launching men’s ready-to-wear and accessories. It also creates swim trunks for children.

Ouwendijk said there were no plans to expand Vilebrequin into women’s wear.

Mexx founders Rattan Chada and Adu Advaney both are involved in Fashion Fund One. Chada also owns a golf course in the south of France and is developing a low-cost hotel concept.