By  on February 8, 2010

PARIS — Europe’s Bartel family, which last November took a 12.5 percent stake in Lanvin parent Arpège SAS, is also the silent financial partner behind the fast-growing business of New York-based Devi Kroell, WWD has learned.

Industry sources said a Bartel investment vehicle quietly took a minority stake in Kroell in 2008, providing an injection of capital that enabled the designer to open boutiques, expand her product range and fortify management. The exact percentage of the current stake could not be learned.

Best known for her leather goods and shoes in exotic skins, Austrian-born Kroell opened a 3,000-square-foot Madison Avenue flagship last October to showcase a growing range of products, including ready-to-wear, first introduced for spring 2009 retailing.

Kroell is slated to stage her first runway show Feb. 15 during New York Fashion Week.

Reached late Friday, a spokesman for Kroell declined comment on the firm’s shareholding structure.

Members of the Bartel family could not be reached for comment.

WWD broke the news last month that a trust associated with the Bartel family was involved in a two-pronged operation that helped Arpège realize a capital increase totaling 27.5 million euros, or about $38.1 million at current exchange rates.

Documents filed with the commercial court here name Ralph Bartel, born in Germany and resident of Switzerland, as a new director of Jeanne Lanvin SA.

In 1998, Bartel founded the New York-based Internet media firm Travelzoo and was its chief executive officer and president until 2008. He is now Travelzoo’s chairman and his brother Holger holds the ceo reins. The company, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange, posted revenues of $94 million in 2009.

Lanvin said it plans to use proceeds from the capital increase to expand its retail network and deepen its commercial footprint.

It is understood Bartel has no designs on building a fashion conglomerate, but reviewed other investment opportunities in recent years, including Christian Lacroix, Jil Sander and Brioni.

With the Bartels in the background, Kroell has pursued an ambitious development plan. The designer recently opened a unit in The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and is plotting future units in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

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