LONDON — Agent Provocateur has become one hot brand — and notonly for a new fall ad featuring Penélope Cruz wearing a red leopardbrain the Nevada desert.
The luxury lingerie brand, which todaywill unveil the fall ad campaign for L’Agent by Agent Provocateur, acollection designed by Cruz and her sister Mónica Cruz Sánchez, is setto undergo a strategic review that could result in a sale. Privateequity investor 3i, its owner, has been talking to banks includingGoldman Sachs and Rothschild about conducting a review of the Britishbrand that could see it sold for upward of 200 million pounds, or $340million at current exchange, according to an industry source.
Theprivate equity firm has owned Agent Provocateur since 2007, and sincethen has overseen its rapid expansion into 14 new markets, as well asthe launch of new products and collections.
No bank has beenhanded a mandate yet, and the source said 3i would consider all options —not just a sale — and nothing will happen until 2015 at the earliest. Asecond source said it is routine for 3i to be exploring its optionsafter a seven-year investment, which is long by industry standards.
A spokeswoman for 3i declined to comment on Thursday.
Earlynext year, Agent Provocateur will cut the ribbon on the 100th storeforits main collection, and this fall will open the first twostand-alonestores for L’Agent, on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles and onElizabethStreet in Manhattan’s NoLIta neighborhood.
Today,L’Agent willalso reveal its relaunched Web site and unveil its firste-commerceplatform. L’Agent has also added Saks Fifth Avenue to itslist ofwholesale clients.
Cruz directed last year’s short filmforL’Agent, and this time she’s the writer, director and model. Thefilmshows a lonely, parched explorer who comes across a lingerie-cladbandof women dancing to a house beat in the middle of the desert. Cruzsitsin the driver’s seat of an old Cadillac drinking a bottle ofwater whilethe buff Tracy Anderson dancers do their thing.
Theactressworked with Anderson on the choreography — it’s a new routine —whilethe dancers move to music by Cruz’s brother, Eduardo Cruz.
“Monicaand I are really happy with our autumn-winter 2014 collection. It’sreally vibrant, so I felt it was really important to create a verysensual film that could also tell a little story, like the first one Idid,” said Cruz, referring to last year’s effort, where her husband,Javier Bardem, made a cameo appearance.
“I got the idea for thefilm while I was listening to the track from Optimist, ‘Single Dutch’ byEduardo Cruz. His music always inspires me so much. Also,collaboratingwith Tracy on the choreography was the perfect fit, andbrought a greatdynamic to the set.”
The Agent Provocateur maincollectioncampaign, by contrast, is all about Seventies-styleindulgence, glitterballs and louche private clubs. The campaign willlaunch on Monday andwill appear on the brand’s Web site.
“Wewanted it to be opulent,luxe and ladylike, and we were looking atJerry Hall as our muse,” saidSarah Shotton, creative director of AgentProvocateur. “We came up withthe idea of a women’s-only club — wherethe women are in control.”
Christian Larsson shot Missy Rayder in the fall collection, which includes lace prints, Lurex embroideries and ribbon flocking.
Thecompany’s chief executive, Garry Hogarth, declined to comment Thursdayon the strategic review, but said in an earlier interview thatinternational expansion is rolling ahead.
By March, there willbe 110 Agent Provocateur main collection stores, with openings plannedfor Macau, Manhattan, Las Vegas, Berlin, Toronto, Saint Petersburg andMoscow. Regarding L’Agent, he said the brand will open in Moscow and atHolt Renfrew in Canada, while the company is looking for store space inLondon.
In the 2012-13 fiscal year, sales at Agent Provocateurshot up 24 percent to 39 million pounds, or $61.6 million, whileearnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose 55percent to 6.2 million pounds, or $9.8 million at average exchange ratesfor the period.
Sales in the 2013-14 year climbed about 25percent, while the earnings figure followed a similar trend. The brand’sbiggest market is the U.S., followed by the U.K.
Earlier thisyear, Agent Provocateur launched a fifth fragrance called Fatale, itsfirst under a new, 10-and-a-half-year partnership with Inter Parfums.
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