TOKYO — Onward Kashiyama has made another big step to create a brand distribution empire in Japan.

The apparel giant acquired import and distribution rights for Sonia Rykiel, Missoni and Gianfranco Ferré from Elbis, a subsidiary of struggling Seibu Department Stores. Seibu is working on a financial restructuring plan calling for $1.84 billion in loan forgiveness and a conversion of debt into equity worth approximately $83.3 million.

As of March 1, Kashiyama is set to establish its luxury brand division to manage five imported brands, including Rykiel, Missoni, Ferré, Michael Kors and Gibó.

As reported, Sportswear Holdings Ltd., which is owned by Silas Chou and Lawrence Stroll, last week bought 85 percent of Michael Kors, including 33 percent from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, 10 percent from Kashiyama and the rest from Kors’ business partner, John Orchulli. Kashiyama remains the global licensee for the Kors Michael Kors bridge collection and the distributor for all Kors products in Japan.

This year, Kashiyama’s luxury division will operate 10 Michael Kors women’s shops in department stores and one freestanding shop; 34 Sonia Rykiel women’s shops in department stores and three freestanding shops; 45 Missoni men’s and women’s shops in department stores and three freestanding shops, and 16 Gianfranco Ferré men’s and women’s shops in department stores and two freestanding shops.?Next fall, 10 Gibó women’s shops will open.?Gibó Co. SpA has been a Kashiyama subsidiary since 1990.

Kashiyama’s luxury brand division is expected to generate annual sales of $84 million at retail for the first year and $109.2 million within three years.?Dollar figures are converted from the yen at the current exchange rate.

Also, Kashiyama plans to sell John Varvatos men’s wear in the Japanese market this spring. The merchandise mix will be 20 percent business attire, such as suits and jackets; 65 percent casualwear, and 15 percent accessories. The firm is expected to sign an agreement for import and distribution for fiscal 2003 and the licensing agreement commencing with fall 2004.

Kashiyama will initially distribute the brand through 11 shops in department stores for this spring and summer and projects sales of $5 million at retail for the first year and $21 million within three years.Onward Kashiyama generated consolidated sales of $2.2 billion dollars for fiscal 2001, ended February 2002, up 4.6 percent from the prior year.?

Besides Kors, Kashiyama’s other licensing deals include Joseph Abboud, J.Press, Paul Smith, Michael Kors, Jean Paul Gaultier and Cerruti 1881.?Kashiyama Group’s subsidiaries deal in Calvin Klein, CK Calvin Klein, various Polo Ralph Lauren brands, Donna Karan New York, DKNY, Bernhard Willhelm, Viktor & Rolf, Jean Colonna, Marni, Martine Sitbon and Tocca.

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