By  on March 1, 2011

As part of its plan to ramp up a variety of categories, Oscar de la Renta Inc. quietly sold a stake in the company to GF Capital Management & Advisors last summer.

The fashion house’s chief executive officer Alex Bolen declined to say how large a stake was sold, but industry sources pegged it at around 20 percent. The amount of GF Capital’s investment could not be learned.

Oscar de la Renta’s decision to bring its beauty and fragrance business back in-house was a major factor in seeking outside investment, as were plans to open more stores and introduce new categories.

“We believe that now is the time to bring new products to the market in a responsible way and to broaden our presence in geographical areas where we are underrepresented,” Bolen said. “We are very bullish about our business and the luxury business in general in the near term.”

Executives at GF Capital did not respond to a request for comment Monday. The fact that the financial company is “very focused on consumer products in general and has a lot of experience in fragrance and beauty” appealed to the designer house, Bolen said. “They bring a lot of strategic insight in areas where we are expanding,” he said.

GF Capital’s portfolio includes an interesting mix of companies including Jonathan Adler, Airborne, RSMG Insights, Blue Man, Bite Tech and Trade Service.

This year, de la Renta will introduce two women’s fragrances. The designer, who was among the first to get into the fragrance business in 1977, will unveil Esprit d’Oscar Eau de Parfum, complete with a contemporary interpretation of the original perfume bottle, in time for Mother’s Day.

Another fragrance is in the works for a September debut, but Bolen declined to give specifics. Releases for a women’s fragrance and a men’s fragrance are also being planned for next year.

“The beauty and fragrance business requires a lot of marketing support and we are putting together a first-class team for it,” Bolen said.

GF’s financial investment will also be used for other brand-building opportunities. De la Renta is said to be closing in on a London location for its 11th boutique. The company is also on the lookout for additional space in Manhattan uptown or downtown, depending on what is available.

Introducing new categories is another pillar in its growth plan, Bolen said. An in-house handbag team is close to being formed “with people who know almost as much about making handbags as Oscar knows about making clothes,” Bolen said.

In October, the company embarked on a similar setup with footwear. Two accessories editors were hired as part of the firm’s plan to turn its footwear business into a $50 million entity within the next three to four years.

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