Carven

BEIJING — Parisian fashion label Carven is close to a sale to Chinese company Icicle Fashion Group, with a deal expected to emerge at the end of next week, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The brand, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with the Paris Commercial Court in May, has been courted by other firms including Axara, Lee Cooper, Cashtex, Philippe Métivier, Market Maker and Red Luxury. But it is the Shanghai-based company, known for its eco-friendly line of men’s and women’s wear, that has emerged as the front-runner, the person said.

Carven declined to comment.

The deal is subject to the decision of the French court, which issues its ruling on Oct. 12, and is expected to be worth several million euros.

New potential owner Icicle, while relatively unknown outside of China, is a clothing company started in 1997 by Ye Shouzeng, an alumn and former professor of Donghua University, one of China’s best regarded fashion design schools.

The company became successful through its emphasis on sustainable sourcing and high-quality fabrics, and counts more than 100 boutiques throughout China. From a design standpoint, it bears minimalist similarities to Cos, although its price point reaches far higher, up to $1,500 or more for larger pieces like outerwear.

Icicle, the eco-focused clothing line from China, was started in 1997.

Icicle, the eco-focused clothing line from Shanghai, was started in 1997.  Courtesy

The source said Icicle had been exploring the idea of creating a second line when the opportunity to buy Carven at a low price presented itself.

While the industry has witnessed an uptick of Chinese ownership of Western fashion brands in recent years — investments from Septwolves, Fosun and Shandong Ruyi come to mind — the deal is decribed as a kind of passion project from the perspective of Icicle.

“It’s not like Fosun and Lanvin. Fosun is a pure investment company — they just want to maximize the assets, and within a couple of years they will want to sell the business,” the source said. “It’s not a trophy asset or a football team where you’re going to overpay loads of money you can brag about. When you look at how much [Carven] costs, of course, they will have to invest money and probably invest a lot more money than it cost to buy.”

While not the primary motivator, snagging Carven would help place the Chinese group more firmly on the international fashion stage, the source continued, right as it plans to ramp up overseas expansion of the Icicle brand, with a focus first on France, where it already has a design team.

Carven and its parent company, Société Béranger, filed for bankruptcy protection in the Paris Commercial Court in May, cutting short a planned revival under the direction of designer Serge Ruffieux, who was hired last year.

Already struggling financially, the house was hit with production delays and had to cancel orders, costing it several million euros.

The label had sold a majority stake to Hong Kong-based Bluebell Group in 2016, which appointed one of its executives, Sophie de Rougemont, as chief executive officer.

In May, a spokesman said Carven counted eight shareholders including Bluebell, Sebaoun and Turenne Capital.

The company has nearly 100 employees and has annual revenues of around 20 million euros.

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