NEW YORK — Prabal Gurung is pounding the pavement looking for a new partner who can bring in fresh funds and a little operational expertise, according to sources.
One person familiar with the company said they were searching for an investor who could spur growth, adding that the brand has plenty of potential and could produce more core pieces carrying lower prices. That would help the name keep its luster while broadening its offerings and allow more customers in.
The brand is led by creative director Prabal Gurung who, according to the company’s Web site, launched the collection in 2009 with an eye toward “encompassing modern luxury, indelible style and an astute sense of glamor.” Gurung did not respond to WWD queries on Monday.
The brand’s spring collection was generally well received and the show opened with monks chanting on the runway, signaling how important Nepal is to the designer, who was born in Singapore, but raised in Kathmandu.
Gurung’s design ambitions took him through New Delhi and ultimately to New York, where he studied at Parsons The New School for Design. Afterward, he worked with Cynthia Rowley for two years and spent five years as design director at Bill Blass.
While working on his own label, he’s received numerous awards, including the Ecco Domani Fashion Fund Award and the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Swarovski Award for Womenswear. Gurung also collaborated with Target in 2003, giving the brand more exposure.
But all of that and reams of positive editorial mentions have not catapulted the brand into commercial success — not uncommon in a world where designers often find themselves with lots of buzz but little business.
“In order for him to reach any of his potential, really what he needs is merchandising guidance in terms of classifications that need to be developed consistently,” said one industry source. “He’s been a little scattered over the past few seasons. How easy, or not, can you fit what he does into somebody’s wardrobe? It may be beautiful and elegant, but it’s also not so easy.”
A number of would-be investors are said to have looked at the still-small business and been interested, although it could not be learned if any are close to making an offer.
There has been some M&A activity in the designer and contemporary sector lately, but it still seems like there are more would-be investors and brands looking for partners than there are actual deals.
Castanea Partners invested in Proenza Schouler in June, while the Lee Equity-backed InterLuxe snapped up A.L.C. in August and Hilco bought the Haute Hippie name in September. General Atlantic, which has a stake in Tory Burch, has been in talks with Alexander Wang.