ON THE BLOCK?: Is J. Jill Group Inc. about to be sold again? It’s only been about a year-and-a-half since private equity firm Golden Gate Capital purchased J. Jill from The Talbots Inc. for $75 million, but a source said a deal was reached within the past week. The identity of the buyer could not be learned. “This did happen fast but there is money out there and Golden Gate saw an opportunity to get a return on their investment,” said an industry source. Selling J. Jill corresponds with Golden Gate’s current strategy of restructuring its portfolio of brands. Last year, it spun off Express through a successful initial public offering, and this past January, sent its Orchard Brands umbrella of 17 catalogue businesses into voluntary bankruptcy. Some industry sources believe the long-troubled Eddie Bauer business could be the next Golden Gate property to go. The private equity firm also has an investment in Zale Corp., among other brands. Golden Gate executives could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
This story first appeared in the March 16, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
CHRISTOPHER BAILEY’S COLLEGIATE STYLE: Not content with winning plaudits from the fashion world, it seems Christopher Bailey also has the dreaming spires of academia in his thrall. On Friday, Bailey, chief creative officer of Burberry, will receive an honorary doctorate from Yorkshire’s Sheffield Hallam University, in recognition of his services to the fashion industry and his charitable work in the U.K. It will add to Bailey’s existing honorary doctorates, given by universities including his alma mater the University of Westminster and the University of Huddersfield, Yorkshire and an honorary fellowship from London’s Royal College of Art, where Bailey graduated with a master’s degree in 1994.
And the honor follows Bailey’s appearance last week at Oxford University’s storied debating society, the Oxford Union. Bailey’s conversation with the 450 students attending covered everything from his upbringing in Yorkshire to his thus far 10-year career at Burberry. Bailey joins a list of fashion names including Tom Ford, Diane von Furstenberg, Anna Wintour and Roberto Cavalli who have addressed the Oxford Union.
KORS DOES BLING: Michael Kors aims to bejewel his consumer with the launch for fall of a new fashion jewelry line. The collection of earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings will be manufactured under license by Fossil. “I’ve always thought of accessories as the exclamation point of a woman’s outfit. Now, with my jewelry collection, I can deliver the full spectrum of the Michael Kors vision for a truly fabulous look,” said Kors. The jewelry will use chain details and mixed medium and will be priced to retail from $100 to $500. The Michael Kors brand began its partnership with Fossil in 2004 with the launch of a watch line.
GUESS’ NEW MAN: Jacques Levy, who stepped down last week from his post as president and chief executive officer of Sephora Worldwide, has joined Guess as a founder’s advisor. Levy will collaborate closely with Paul Marciano, as well as the executive and retail teams in developing key marketing and customer relationship management strategies worldwide. “Jacques is one of the most prominent and accomplished retail executives of the last decade. The strategy and consistency he created at Sephora is something unique that made the competition irrelevant. He joins Maurice and I to further the continued global expansion for all of the Guess retail concepts,” said Marciano, adding that Guess plans to open at least another 1,000 stores in the next three to five years. Levy previously worked at Staples International, Disney, Darty and Galeries Lafayette.
MUSE FLASH: Vanessa Traina — ubercool downtown muse to Joseph Altuzarra, pal of the Proenza Schouler boys and Alexander Wang, and a contributing fashion editor at the New York Times’ T magazine — is trying her hand at design. This spring, Traina created a capsule collection for Maje, the trendy French contemporary brand. The San Francisco native took her cues from Nineties fashion, giving the 14 silk and delicate looks a precise, minimalist edge. The line will launch exclusively on March 23 at Barneys New York, Beverly Hills and San Francisco, followed by a worldwide launch at all Maje stores on March 28.