Giorgio Armani, Club 21 Part Ways

The Armani Group will take direct control of its U.K. retail and wholesale operations for all brands.

LONDON — Giorgio Armani and his longtime U.K. retail partners Club 21 are parting ways.

This story first appeared in the October 3, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The Armani Group and Club 21 said Tuesday they have reached an agreement by which Armani will take over direct control of its U.K. retail and wholesale operations for all its brands. Club 21 currently operates one Giorgio Armani flagship and six Emporio Armani stores in the U.K. and oversees wholesale accounts at stores such as Harrods and Selfridges.

The one exception is A|X Armani Exchange, a joint venture between Club 21 (UK) Ltd. and Giorgio Armani. Club 21 said Tuesday it and Armani would continue to expand the A|X Armani Exchange brand worldwide.

“We have enjoyed a great working relationship with Club 21 for over two decades, and I am truly grateful for their great contribution to establishing the Armani business so successfully in the U.K. during that time,” said Giorgio Armani, president and chief executive officer of his company. “However, it is now time that a global brand like Armani runs its own interests in a market as significant as this one. We have great plans for the U.K., and we look forward to a new era for Armani there.”

An Armani spokesman did not elaborate on the future plans in the U.K.

Giorgio Armani is a private company and does not break out sales for the U.K. However, the company said in its 2011 revenue statement earlier this year that Europe, excluding Italy, was the biggest market for the group, accounting for 31 percent of sales.

Christina Ong, whose family owns and operates Club 21, said: “We are grateful to the Armani Group for having given us the opportunity to develop the business over the last 23 years. We are confident that with the global strength of the Armani Group, the U.K. operations will move on to achieve even greater success.”

Club 21, the fashion and accessories arm of the Ong family’s Como Group, was founded in 1972 in Singapore. It operates multilabel fashion stores as well as licensed boutiques in Australia, the Far East, the U.K. and U.S., and manages brands including Donna Karan, ck Calvin Klein, Balenciaga, Marni, Dolce & Gabbana, Diesel, Paul Smith, Issey Miyake, Jil Sander and Dries Van Noten.