PARIS — At a time when many independent fashion designers are struggling, José Lévy has a good news story to tell.

The designer, best known for his men’s wear and as the former creative director at Holland & Holland, on Wednesday unveiled a new growth plan and a new investor.

Sylvie Taihades, a former advertising executive who helped grow Yohji Yamamoto’s business in Europe in the late Eighties, has taken a 20 percent stake in Lévy’s business.

She has drawn up plans to significantly boost Lévy’s sales, which were just over $1 million last year. A new administrative team has been installed and there are plans to open a shop in London next year. Meanwhile, the U.S., where Lévy has no accounts at present, will also become an important priority. Taihades said the house plans to open a door in New York sometime in 2004. Women’s wear, which was discontinued two years ago, will be relaunched in 2004.

Meanwhile, the designer plans to sell another 20 percent of his capital to private investors. Paris investment bank Aurel Leven has been charged to handle the transaction, which will close by the end of the year.

Lévy will hold the majority control of the business.

The strategy comes as many smaller French designers face a tough road. Eric Bergere, once a darling of the press, closed his business this year. Others have been feeling extreme pressure as well.

Only last year, Lévy’s 10-year-old business was believed to be on the brink of failure; he even stopped showing his men’s collections on the runway.

"It was very difficult going," said Lévy. "But we’re confident for the future. The problem, when you’re an independent designer, is that you have to do everything yourself and you don’t have the visibility that you need. This new strategy is designed to bring new visibility. It’s a brand new start."

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