Brooks Brothers continues to increase its focus on women.
Coming on the heels of the first Zac Posen-designed women’s apparel collections that hit stores this year, Brooks Brothers Group Inc., through its subsidiary Carolee LLC, has acquired Brooklyn-based designer jewelry brand Alexis Bittar from Alexis Bittar and TSG Consumer Partners LLC.
Terms were not disclosed. TSG Partners took a 50 percent investment stake in Alexis Bittar in 2012.
Jill Maier, currently president of Carolee, will also oversee the operations of the Alexis Bittar business.
“We are truly proud to add Alexis Bittar jewelry to our brand portfolio,” Maier said. “Its creativity, independent design, exceptional quality and craftsmanship complement our brand offering and enable us to strategically evolve our business model.”
Brooks Brothers chief executive officer Claudio Del Vecchio was in Japan and unavailable for comment Thursday, but his son, Matteo Del Vecchio, chief administrative officer for Brooks Brothers Group, said, “Our strategy is to maintain a fully owned but independent jewelry division, housing both owned [Carolee, Alexis Bittar] and licensed brands.”
Carolee, which Brooks Brothers acquired in 2001, currently develops and markets licensed jewelry for Lauren by Ralph Lauren, ABS by Allen Schwartz and Trina Turk as well as Brooks Brothers.
The brands will continue to operate independently but share expertise and back-office services.
Matteo Del Vecchio said there are no immediate plans to add Alexis Bittar jewelry to Brooks Brothers stores. “It was not the reason for the acquisition or part of our current strategy but something which could be potentially explored in the future,” he said.
Brooks Brothers has offered some third-party brands in its stores but only in men’s. These include Red Wing shoes, Kiel James Patrick jewelry and Filson bags.
Women’s has been an increased area of focus for Brooks Brothers over the past several years. The women’s offering accounts for around 20 percent of the company’s $1.2 billion in annual sales, a figure that has remained constant for several years. In 2014, the retailer named Posen as creative director of its women’s mainline apparel and accessories. His first collection for the company was spring 2016.
In 2007, Claudio Del Vecchio made waves by hiring cutting-edge designer Thom Browne to design a Black Fleece collection for the Brooks Brothers stores. That partnership, which included men’s and women’s wear, lasted for eight years until it was discontinued in 2015. At the time, the company said the focus would instead be on the Posen-designed women’s line as well as the younger-skewed Red Fleece collection.
Bittar, who could not be reached for comment on Thursday, was born in Brooklyn in 1968 to parents who were university professors and antique collectors. They gave him a gift of some entangled vintage jewelry when he was 13, which sparked a lifelong fascination with the category.
By the late Eighties, Bittar was selling antique jewelry and vintage clothing on the streets of New York while immersing himself in the city’s club scene. He launched his first collection in 1990 and was discovered by Bergdorf Goodman in 1992. He was named the Accessory Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2010 and his collection is sold at high-end department and specialty stores as well as his own network of freestanding stores.