MILAN — BCBG Max Azria is coming back to Europe.
The 32-year-old fashion company now owned by Marquee Brands is reentering the market via a licensing deal signed late last year with A.Moda SpA, a company helmed by Florentine entrepreneur Alessandro Bastagli, best known for his premium yarn firm Lineapiù Italia.
The five-year renewable deal covers the design, production and distribution of BCBG Max Azria branded collections in Europe, Russia and Turkey.
Bastagli tapped seasoned designer Cristina Ortiz to lead the design studio. According to the entrepreneur, she will be able to reinterpret and develop founder Max Azria’s heritage with a complete holistic vision, encompassing other aspects of the company in addition to creativity, which are pivotal for a successful recipe, he noted.
“Reintroducing a brand is not easy in this particular context. You have to conquer your space and we’re hoping to do that by offering the best possible product with the best possible price,” Bastagli told WWD.
“We received many offers from brands submitting licensing and M&A deals, but the reason why we chose BCBG is that when I met Max Azria 23 years ago I was impressed by his work, his creativity, his concept and the vision he had about the women he wanted to dress: dynamic, feminine, independent,” he said.
Bastagli noted that negotiations with Marquee Brands, which acquired BCBG in 2017, were straightforward even though A.Moda had to prove its prowess.
“It was more lawyer discussions,” he said with a chuckle. “There was mutual satisfaction since Day One: We proved that they can trust us,” he said, mentioning how the 50-piece capsule collection for spring 2022 dropping online in April was created before a deal had materialized and received praise and approval by the Marquee Brands’ team.
Christine Kitching, vice president international business development at Marquee Brands, said the deal responds to a “gap in the market” for accessible luxury clothing.
After pulling the brand from the European market in the aftermath of the death of the namesake designer in 2019, Marquee Brands realized “that the label had a very active following in the region, but since it was predominantly known in the U.S., it was necessary to leverage a Europe-based partner,” said Kitching.
Lacking manufacturing prowess in the womenswear arena, Bastagli’s A.Moda inked a partnership with ML Group, a well-known ready-to-wear supplier with clients in the luxury segment, which the entrepreneur deemed as “very successful.”
Bastagli sees distribution as three-pronged. He plans to team with distributors in all markets — including Spain, Russia, France, Greece and the U.K. — where the company wants to establish concession models at key department stores including El Corte Inglés. He said negotiations with Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, the Valdas Group in Greece and other destinations in the U.K. are ongoing. In Italy the company has already established a network of agents and showrooms to secure distribution at marquee multibrand stores.
“By 2024 or 2025, our goal is to open a couple of freestanding stores. You have to show that you care about the brand and are committed to it to gain customers’ confidence. It doesn’t have to be a huge space, but it needs to be in the right spot,” he explained.
This is seen supporting the goal of reaching sales of 10 million euros by the end of the licensing deal’s first leg in 2026. However, he said, “with Marquee Brands we have a good feeling, it’s more important to prove to them that we are working in the interest of the brand rather than targeting a specific turnover.”
“We can really rebuild the image and turnover of the brand.…If you put a solid base you can grow very high,” he said.
Asked about the potential brand dilution in light of having two collections designed by different designers in the U.S. and in Europe, Bastagli said the joint plan with Marquee Brands is to have Ortiz and Albino Riganello, creative director of BCBG Group, oversee fashion collections and work in tandem to deliver a shared vision for the brand.
The first joint collection is expected to be unveiled for fall 2023, Bastagli said.