MILAN — Prada SpA said Friday that it has inked a deal to sell 100 percent of Azzedine Alaïa SAS back to the namesake founder for an undisclosed price.
"I thank the Prada Group for its valuable and total support to the Alaïa brand during the last years," Alaïa said in a statement. "I thank particularly and personally [Prada chief executive] Patrizio Bertelli for the attention and the sensitivity that he had and continues to have in support of my work and I wish him all the success he deserves for his group."
Prada first struck a strategic alliance with the Paris-based designer in 2000 and later acquired the fashion house as it attempted to build a multibrand luxury empire via a string of acquisitions. Prada has since sold off Helmut Lang and Jil Sander to concentrate on its Prada and Miu Miu brands.
For the year ended Jan. 31, Azzedine Alaïa posted sales growth of about 30 percent to 13.2 million euros, or $16.6 million.
Under the terms of the deal, Prada said it will continue to develop and produce footwear and leather goods for the Alaïa brand.
Bertelli said Prada and Alaïa's collaboration has produced "significant results" for both parties. "Today Azzedine Alaïa regains his independence, while maintaining a collaboration with our group. For Prada, this agreement is in line with the strategy to expand the group and grow profitability by focusing on the development of the core brands in the world's key markets," Bertelli said in the statement.
Alaïa could not be reached for further comment Friday, and Prada executives declined additional comment.
Carla Sozzani of 10 Corso Como, a historic retailer for Alaïa, said the brand sells in about 200 sales points around the world. She thinks the tie-up with Prada helped Alaïa develop its accessories business, including footwear, which Sozzani said is selling well.
"For once this is an amiable deal in the world of fashion," she laughed, noting Prada and Alaïa will continue to work together. "Alaïa is the best designer in the world. He has a savoir faire that equals no one else."
Alaïa founded his fashion house in 1979 and gained international fame in the Eighties, thanks to his stick-to-the-ribs tailoring, sexy evening dresses, snug knits and sculpted leathers. The designer also became famous for running his business on his own terms and calendar, showing his collections when he felt like it and delivering sporadically. He is known, as well, to be prone to working at any and all hours of the day or night — breaking only to share meals in his massive kitchen with a far-flung group of fashion friends.At the time of his company's sale to Prada, he had a single atelier in Paris of 12 people, who turned out ready-to-wear samples and custom-made garments. His complex on Rue de Moussy in the Marais, which includes a store, was — and remains — a true cottage industry. In September 2004, he even opened a three-room hotel there.
Right before the Prada-Alaïa alliance was unveiled, the designer had been speaking with three suitors. Yet he had consistently said he was not prepared to lose majority control of his house.
"I will never sell my name," he said in an interview with WWD at the time. "I would only partner with someone who is prepared to accept the way I work."
The Prada-Alaïa marriage was an unlikely one, since it paired the hard-driving industrialist Bertelli with the stubborn, slow-to-grow artisan Alaïa. But a statement at the time of the deal said Alaïa "considers Prada as the ideal partner for the development of projects, which will allow his work to evolve in a way that suits him and in the respect of his autonomy."
Alaïa told WWD at the time of the partnership he chose to work with Prada because Bertelli "was the only one who understood the system of my house. He knows my craft and he appreciates art."
Both men remained mum on most terms of the partnership, which called for the creation of a foundation that would preserve the archives of Alaïa. Bertelli, however, told WWD, "We have a significant share in Alaïa's business and we made a sensible investment."
Later, it became known Bertelli had secured an option to buy Alaïa's company over the next five years. Prada, he said, would help the Alaïa brand grow and would begin producing some items for the Paris-based designer. Bertelli even hinted at the possibility of an Alaïa makeup line. In July 2001, Alaïa staged a show (rtw in the middle of couture) for the press for the first time in years. He then expanded his footwear collection and entered the eyewear category with the aid of Prada.
In November 2003, 10 Comme Ltd., a joint venture between Comme des Garçons and Carla Sozzani, signed an agreement with Alaïa for the exclusive importation of the designer's brand within Japan.
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