LONDON — Jose Vaz Guedes, a strategic consultant, luxury brand builder and expert networker, has died at age 52, according to a close friend.
The cause of death was a cerebral aneurysm that Guedes suffered on May 25 in Lisbon, Portugal.
Guedes, known as “Zé” to friends and associates, was a behind-the-scenes dealmaker who launched and managed brands, and oversaw sales, distribution and franchising for companies large and small.
He worked across Europe, and was based between Milan, London and Lisbon. Later in his career he began brokering merger and acquisition deals, advising funds on acquisitions both in luxury fashion and in high-end real estate.
In the latter part of his life, Guedes had moved home to Portugal to care for his parents and to take advantage of the recent property boom in his native Lisbon.
Guedes, who held a BA from the Institut d’Etudes politiques de Paris, or SciencesPo, began his career at J. Walter Thompson (now Wunderman Thompson) in Lisbon.
Massimo Ferretti, executive chairman of Aeffe, said “the news that Jose has left us has saddened me. He was too young and too full of life to leave us now. We met at the beginning of his career, as soon as he arrived in Italy, after having left his country.
“I remember him as an enthusiastic professional, enterprising and with excellent international relationships. Thanks to his professional qualities he succeeded in establishing a career in the sectors of ready-to-wear and accessories in a short time. I believe all those who have met him remember his thirst for life, determination and humor. We will miss him.”
Accessories rapidly became one of Guedes’ specialties: He worked as worldwide sales director of Jimmy Choo from 1999 to 2003 developing the brand’s retail and wholesale operations, setting up franchise agreements and plotting the launch of the debut handbag line.
In a joint statement, Jimmy Choo’s chief executive officer Hannah Colman, and creative director Sandra Choi, said that Guedes “played a key role in helping to scale and grow Jimmy Choo in the early years, and we will always be grateful for his contribution and the commitment that he gave to Jimmy Choo.
“Jose was a skilled luxury brand builder, and after leaving Jimmy Choo he went on to provide brand and commercial strategy to many other business within our industry. As well as the significant role he played at Jimmy Choo professionally, he was also a treasured friend to so many people around the world including us both. We shall miss him dearly. He was a unique talent in our industry.”
After working at Jimmy Choo, Guedes launched and ran the Tabitha Simmons brand, and also worked as a branding and strategy consultant for Liberty in London and for Lane Crawford’s home department. In 2015, he advised on Kering’s sale of Sergio Rossi to the European investment house Investindustrial.
“Jose started with me on my shoe journey,” said Simmons. “He was absolutely brilliant, smart and was integral to starting my brand. He will be greatly missed.”
Andrew Keith, Selfridges managing director who’d previously worked with Guedes at Lane Crawford, said: “Jose’s passion for the industry was felt at every turn. His enthusiasm was truly contagious. He was an absolute pleasure to work with, and we will all miss him.”
Guedes’ network spanned European and American brands, showrooms, factories and shop floors.
Colleagues and friends described Guedes as a warm, worldly and generous man who could easily connect with people on a personal and professional level.
A lifelong lover of art and history, he could talk for hours about Lisbon’s historic landmarks and gardens and the details of 16th-century paintings and Japanese Nanban screens at the city’s Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga.
“Jose always knew how to deal with different nationalities in our business.…It all came easily for him as he spoke five languages fluently,” said Morena Zabeni, the founder and CEO of the Winwood showroom in Milan.
“He was old-school, a gentleman, an honest and rare friend who always gave good advice,” Zabeni added.
Sue Whiteley, the former Kering and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton executive, and cofounder of the swimwear brand On the Island, said Guedes was a “kind, old-school gentleman,” who always took time to listen.
Joy Yaffe formerly an international brand consultant in Milan and now the founder and CEO of the London-based well-being brand Reset MSM, called Guedes, “a consummate professional, and networker extraordinaire.”
Yaffe said he was also an “amazing collector of objets d’art, and a wonderful cook, homemaker and friend. A light has gone out.”
Guedes is survived by his mother Teresa. A funeral mass will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Santa Joana Princesa church in Lisbon.