PARIS — The house of Angelo Tarlazzi is the latest fashion player to attract a private equity partner.The designer said Tuesday the French fund Xaap Finance has taken a 67 percent stake in the company with plans to accelerate growth by expanding wholesale distribution, reentering the retail business and moving into accessories and footwear. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.The designer and Tarlazzi chief executive officer Bruno Degeorges, who retain the rest of the shares, said they hope to lift the house back to its pinnacle in the go-go Eighties, when revenues totaled around 40 million euros and the brand had boutiques from New York to Tokyo. Last year, revenues vaulted 40 percent to about 3 million euros, or $4.1 million at average exchange rates."Each new project will come with an envelope of funding," Degeorges said in an interview in Tarlazzi's office, the designer's desk strewn with sketches for his summer 2009 collection. "We will be opening a store in Paris in 2009 and are currently searching for a location."Famous in the Eighties for his dramatic eveningwear and flyaway dresses, Tarlazzi has recently made inroads into specialty stores, with U.S. buyers receptive to his knitwear, tailored jerseys and versatile shirtdresses, which booked strongly for resort. He had been absent from the U.S. market for about a decade until a few years ago, and stopped showing on the runway in Paris in 2003.Degeorges said the U.S. accounts for about half of the label's business, which gave Xaap confidence in its expansion potential. The brand is sold in about 60 U.S. doors including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Ultimo, Tootsie's and Stanley Korshak, often positioned next to Italian labels such as Moschino, Blumarine and Etro.Degeorges described an investment horizon of at least 10 years. "It is our role to assume the financial development of the company. There is a huge potential owing to their success in the U.S. and 30 years of history as a label," said Patrick Papot, president of Xaap Finance.This is the first fashion investment for Xaap, which counts holdings in diverse industries such as chemicals, transportation and finance.Italian-born Tarlazzi launched his label in 1978 and operated under the radar as the company changed hands and regrouped. He designs five collections a year and said he is eager to return to men's wear. Meanwhile, Tarlazzi and Degeorges said they are mulling ways to boost the brand's media profile, with a possible return to the runway, and to again take on the Asian market, notably Japan. "We have an objective of 30 to 40 million euros in five years" Degeorges said.
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