A look from the Jil Sander RTW spring 2021 collection.

MILAN — The Jil Sander brand could once again end up being controlled by an Italian group.

OTB confirmed to WWD on Monday that it is interested in acquiring the Jil Sander brand and is conducting due diligence.

WWD first reported OTB was eyeing Jil Sander in December. According to a Milan-based source at the time, Onward Holdings Co. Ltd., which owns Jil Sander, had tapped Nomura as adviser and OTB was said to be in exclusive talks with the Japanese group.

While not confirming a specific target, in a statement sent to WWD at the time, OTB said “it is true that we are evaluating different opportunities and companies currently on the market. We want to increase our critical mass and we want to do it in a modern and sustainable way, firstly supporting and strengthening the pipeline, and in general the Made in Italy [initiative], as we did all throughout this pandemic, consistently with the strategic vision of the group and of our entrepreneur,” referring to OTB founder Renzo Rosso.

Jil Sander is controlled by Onward Holdings, the Tokyo-listed apparel group, which bought the brand in 2008 from London-based private equity company Change Capital Partners for 167 million euros.

Also in December, Onward Holdings sold its European subsidiary Onward Luxury Group, which was seen as signaling a potential change of strategy for the Tokyo-based apparel giant.

Through a management buyout, entrepreneur Franco Pené, together with Fabio Ducci and Antonello Orunesu Preiata, chief executive officer and chief financial officer of OLG, respectively, took full control of the company, renaming it HIM Co SpA — High Italian Manufacturing. Under the agreement, the company also becomes parent to handbag and small leather goods manufacturer Frassineti Srl and fine knitwear manufacturer Erika Srl.

OTB has been looking at expanding its portfolio of brands, which includes Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni, Viktor & Rolf and a minority stake in Amiri, as well as production arms Staff International and Brave Kids.

Commenting on OTB 2019 results, CEO Ubaldo Minelli did not rule out additional acquisitions, saying he would “evaluate market opportunities if they are in line with the strategic vision of the group.”

OTB has raised its stake in the Viktor & Rolf brand to 70 percent and in 2019 was eyeing an investment in the Roberto Cavalli company. The latter brand was eventually sold to the founder and chairman of Dubai-based Damac Properties, Hussain Sajwani.

Jil Sander is now designed by Luke and Lucie Meier, who took over the company’s creative direction in 2017 after Rodolfo Paglialunga’s three-year stint. The Meiers have been reworking Jil Sander’s signature minimalism with a poetic, warm and very personal attitude, mainly conveyed through artisanal details and unique materials.

Jil Sander was founded in Hamburg, Germany, in 1968 by the namesake designer, who rose to fame in the ’80s and ’90s with her tailored basics crafted from luxurious fabrics, selling her company to the Prada Group in 1999. Sander herself left the brand six months later after clashes with Prada chief Patrizio Bertelli, only to be lured back again in May 2003 — then to leave again in November 2004, and return in 2012, eventually leaving for good in 2013.

She was succeeded by Milan Vukmirovic, who did sporty disco flash until Sander returned in May 2003. After her second departure, the brand’s creative reins were handed over to its long-standing design team. Prada then tapped Raf Simons as Sander’s new creative director in 2005. He exited in 2012.

Prada sold the company to Change Capital Partners in 2006.

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