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Brioni Said Ending Women’s Line

Brand also plans to terminate its contract with designer Alessandro Dell’Acqua, according to sources.

MILAN — Brioni plans to terminate its women’s line and its contract with designer Alessandro Dell’Acqua, according to sources.

This story first appeared in the August 23, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The sources contended the decision is part of the ongoing talks between PPR and Brioni about the French luxury house acquiring the Italian brand. Brioni and PPR declined to comment Monday.

An industry source said Monday that Brioni’s manufacturing plant in Congiunti, Italy, which was exclusively dedicated to the production of the brand’s women’s collections, will be shut down in September. Some of the 110 workers will be incorporated in Brioni’s factory based in Italy’s central town of Penne, but the women’s line will be discontinued and the contract with Dell’Acqua will not be renewed. The designer was on vacation and not reachable at press time. This would be an abrupt change of strategy for Brioni, which tapped Dell’Acqua as creative director of the women’s line in May 2010 to raise the division’s profile. A source said the company gave carte blanche to the designer, who “selected only the most precious fabrics and materials” in his effort to relaunch the line. “The clothes were made with wonderful fabrics, but at a very high price,” noted the source.

Dell’Acqua’s show for Brioni is scheduled for Sept. 25 at 11:30 a.m. during Milan Fashion Week, but sources wonder if it will actually take place.

“This was supposed to be a long-term investment for Brioni, and Dell’Acqua was in talks to extend his yearly contract with a three-year agreement that would have given Brioni exclusivity over the designer,” said one industry source. “The collection was selling very well, and Brioni was planning to open a number of women’s stores, so I can only assume the entrance of a new shareholder was instrumental in determining this new course.”

PPR may have no need for another women’s line, while it might be vying for market shares in the men’s arena, just as LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has big plans to revamp its Berluti line, said the source.

“PPR may only want to focus on men’s,” said another source. “It already has so many women’s lines.”

In addition to Gucci, PPR’s Luxury Division also includes the Bottega Veneta and Yves Saint Laurent businesses. Brioni could appeal to PPR because of its know-how in tailored men’s wear, exclusive positioning and international visibility.

Brioni initiated a search for an investor three years ago. PPR first emerged as a possible investor in Brioni in 2009, after the Italian company tapped BNP Paribas in November 2008 to help sell a 20 to 25 percent stake. Later that year, Brioni said it was no longer seeking an investor. Now the need for an injection of cash is a priority for Brioni, which is weighed down by debt of almost 100 million euros, or $144 million at current exchange, according to sources. Part of Brioni’s debt stems from the company’s buyout in 2006 of former chief executive officer Umberto Angeloni for an estimated 80 million euros, or $104.8 million at average exchange rates for that year. In his 16 years at the company, Angeloni was instrumental in building Brioni into a luxury lifestyle brand.

The executive is now chief executive officer and majority shareholder of luxury Italian tailoring brand Caruso.

Brioni is controlled by the descendants of the company’s founders — Nazareno Fonticoli, the master tailor, and Gaetano Savini, the original fashion coordinator — and celebrated its 65th anniversary last year. One source estimated the price tag for Brioni could range upward of 300 million euros, or $431.7 million at current exchange.