MILAN — Private equity Antares Advisory last year launched a fund aimed at supporting Italian luxury fashion and lifestyle companies and is now leveraging the experience of Isabelle Harvie-Watt, who has an extensive 20-year background in working for luxury fashion brands ranging from Giorgio Armani and Versace to Tod’s Group.
The fund, as reported, is looking to support midsized luxury fashion and lifestyle brands dented by financial problems and nonperforming loans, classified as UTP, or Unlikely to Pay.
The goals of the fund include enhancing the value of the brands and their production processes, the creation of clusters, the strengthening of companies, the promotion and adoption of ESG programs, the digitalization and injection of new technologies and protecting and enhancing the value of the territories and the prestige of Italian craftsmanship. The scope of the project has grown with the global pandemic as the fund offers an opportunity for midsized brands that have a more family-driven culture to join forces and form new entities to be more competitive.
Harvie-Watt joins the management team as a strategic adviser. She is tasked with helping identify the companies that will form part of the portfolio as well as providing marketing, branding and communications expertise for the creation of new brand and business strategies.
Born and raised in London, Harvie-Watt has been working in Italy for more than 25 years. Most recently, she started her own consulting business and small investment group that provides capital to fashion tech start-ups. Before a stint as chief marketing officer of Valentino, which she exited in 2018, she was a managing partner and chief executive officer of the Spring Group — Spring Studios and Spring Place — in Milan, tasked with expanding and managing the group’s footprint in Italy. Prior to that Harvie-Watt spent five years as CEO and country manager of Havas Media Group in Italy. While at Havas, she also founded and launched Luxhub, a global strategic consulting division for the group, specializing in luxury and fashion.
“I am very excited to be part of a project that aims to sustain, support and enhance the Made In Italy brand,” said Harvie-Watt. “I have been so fortunate to have worked in this industry in this country alongside some of the greatest talents. It has been both an education and an inspiring experience. Now I have the chance to share some of the knowledge I have acquired.”
Antares Advisory was founded in 2009 by Guido Vesin and Stefano Romiti, respectively the former head of M&A at Banca Akros and partner in charge of EY Corporate Finance. This latest fund was conceived with former Boglioli, Isaia and Pal Zileri CEO Giovanni Mannucci.
Mannucci touted Harvie-Watt’s “in-depth experience and wealth of industry knowledge.” He believes that, “coupled with her leadership, marketing and product skill-set, [she] will help accelerate the plans we have for our projects, and our objectives.”
Antares’ team at the moment includes Gaetano Sallorenzo, who was previously CEO of Miroglio Fashion and before that, was CEO of Les Copains under BVM SpA. Other former positions include CEO of Stuart Weitzman; CEO of Replay; CEO of Calvin Klein Jeans and Sportswear for Europe and Asia; president, North America at Giorgio Armani; executive vice president of Ralph Lauren Europe, and president of Liz Claiborne Europe and then International.