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Esteban Cortazar Gets Investor

London-based MH Luxe Ltd. has taken a significant minority stake in the label, which Cortazar relaunched in 2012 as an online exclusive with Net-a-porter.

PARIS — Esteban Cortazar, who just turned 30, is the latest young European designer to attract an investor, WWD has learned.

This story first appeared in the May 28, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

London-based MH Luxe Ltd. has taken a significant minority stake in Cortazar’s Paris-based label, which he relaunched in 2012 as an online exclusive with Net-a-porter. Financial terms, including the size of the minority stake, were not disclosed.

An upstart family office that also invested in Marilyn Agency, home to such models as Claudia Schiffer and Eva Herzigova, MH Luxe said its “considerable” investment would support Cortazar’s “growth over the coming years.”

In an interview, the designer said the deal would allow him to fund production at Italian factory Studio Roscini, and expand distribution of his signature label into the offline world, while maintaining his online exclusive with Net-a-porter.

He plans to unveil his next collection in late June or early July during the resort/pre-spring market, and is aiming to partner with 10 to 15 specialty and department stores the first season, initially focusing on Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East.

“I want to nurture one great partner per market,” he said, excitedly describing plans to do special events and trunk shows to cultivate a close relationship with his customers.

Colombian-born Cortazar also plans to continue with his “trans-seasonal” approach to fashion, presenting two large collections annually that will be broken up into three deliveries.

He is also aiming to keep his designs under wraps until shortly before clothes are delivered, reasoning that luxury consumers weaned in the digital age expect to be able to purchase items the moment they see them on the runway.

To wit: The collection to be wholesaled to retailers in July will be presented to the press in October during Paris Fashion Week, with the first deliveries to stores slated for November. It is to span day and cocktail dresses, separates and “transformable” pieces that can be worn several ways.

Perhaps best known for a three-season stint at Emanuel Ungaro that wound up in 2009, Cortazar is a fashion wunderkind who famously took time off from high school in Miami to present his signature collection on the runway during New York Fashion Week in 2002. Championed by retailers including the late Kal Ruttenstein at Bloomingdale’s, he sold his signature label to a handful of American stores from 2002 until 2007.

The Net-a-porter exclusive, a first for the company that involved financial support and merchandising advice, has proven a successful relaunch vehicle for Cortazar. He praised the London-based e-tailer for helping him build his future customer base by showing his first two collections to select brick-and-mortar retailers.

The designer marveled at the “power of the digital world and how big a platform it is,” allowing him to find customers in Australia for the same dresses as Parisians or New Yorkers.

Ben Matthews, buying manager at Net-a-porter, characterized Cortazar’s exclusive collections as a “phenomenal success,” noting customers in more than 40 countries shopped the collection, with the majority of transactions taking place in Europe.

“Our customers love his use of contrasting textures, his eye for show-stopping pieces with a truly exquisite fit and his fresh approach to elegant tailoring,” he said, listing among recent bestsellers a leather-trimmed pencil skirt and a cady jumpsuit with an adjustable cape-effect back.

Cortazar’s deal is the latest in a spate of transactions involving up-and-coming talents, dovetailing with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s investments in J.W. Anderson and Nicholas Kirkwood and rival Kering’s in Altuzarra and Christopher Kane.

Companies House lists MH Luxe as a private company limited by shares and with directors Tarek Fuad Abuzayyad and Marie Halley.