Robert Clergerie is about to step into another development phase under new ownership, according to market sources.
Undeterred by the downturn in luxury M&A amidst the coronavirus pandemic, private equity fund French Legacy Group has acquired the storied French shoemaker from First Heritage Brands and fashion executive Jean-Marc Loubier.
Financial terms could not immediately be learned.
French Legacy Group is part of Switzerland-based Mirabaud Asset Management, which in December 2018 established a fund, Mirabaud Patrimoine Vivant, dedicated to “living heritage companies” in the luxury and lifestyle sector. Its investments are said to include the shirt retailer Anne Fontaine, jeweler Mauboussin, activewear-maker Le Coq Sportif and the shoe brands Carel and Carvil.
According to Mirabaud’s web site, partners in the private equity business include Renaud Dutreil, former French minister of small and medium-sized businesses and former chairman of LVMH North America, and David Wertheimer, son of Gérard Wertheimer, one of the owners of Chanel.
Clergerie’s key assets include its historic factory in Romans-sur-Isère, France, once a center of shoe-making, and a small fleet of stores, including five in France and two in London. Clergerie also boasts boutiques in Madrid, Geneva, New York City and Los Angeles.
Under Loubier and First Heritage Brands, Clergerie made important inroads in the U.S. market, established a strong e-commerce business, and began making strides in the linchpin Asian market.
Loubier, best known for being second-in-command at Louis Vuitton for a decade, and then running Celine at the time of Michael Kors, also fortified the factory and trumpeted Clergerie as a Made in France product.
The partners took a 90 percent stake in Clergerie’s parent, Financiere de Romans, in 2011 when the company was on the verge of disappearing.
Among their first moves was to tap fashion designer Roland Mouret, who had worked at Clergerie’s elbow earlier in his career, as creative director in order to bring a dose of fashion edge and modernity. He stayed in the role for six years and was succeeded by David Tourniaire-Beauciel, who partnered with Clergerie ceo Perry Oosting to fine-tune the product and value proposition.
Clergerie’s original innovation — interpreting masculine shoes for women — is in line with trends toward flatter, more comfortable shoes.
From the early days of his career, Clergerie was a trendsetter with his chic, yet wearable styles. He was among first designers to make women’s shoes on men’s lasts, and is perhaps best known for the collection of women’s lace-up oxfords he launched in 1981. In 1992, he created his signature raffia sandal, and two years later launched a line of winter sandals (designed to be worn with big, thick socks) — something that was revolutionary at the time. Through the Eighties and Nineties, Clergerie developed a strong following at top U.S. department stores, opening his first Stateside store in 1987.
Loubier is president and chief executive officer of First Heritage Brands, and a shareholder alongside the Fung family and Singapore investment fund Temasek. First Heritage Brands also controls Belgian leather goods house Delvaux, which has extended its production facilities in Brussels and France.
It is understood London-based Savigny Partners advised Fung and Loubier in the transaction.