LONDON — Agent Provocateur has become one hot brand — and not only for a new fall ad featuring Penélope Cruz wearing a red leopard bra in the Nevada desert.
The luxury lingerie brand, which today will unveil the fall ad campaign for L’Agent by Agent Provocateur, a collection designed by Cruz and her sister Mónica Cruz Sánchez, is set to undergo a strategic review that could result in a sale. Private equity investor 3i, its owner, has been talking to banks including Goldman Sachs and Rothschild about conducting a review of the British brand that could see it sold for upward of 200 million pounds, or $340 million at current exchange, according to an industry source.
The private equity firm has owned Agent Provocateur since 2007, and since then has overseen its rapid expansion into 14 new markets, as well as the launch of new products and collections.
No bank has been handed a mandate yet, and the source said 3i would consider all options — not just a sale — and nothing will happen until 2015 at the earliest. A second source said it is routine for 3i to be exploring its options after a seven-year investment, which is long by industry standards.
A spokeswoman for 3i declined to comment on Thursday.
Early next year, Agent Provocateur will cut the ribbon on the 100th store for its main collection, and this fall will open the first two stand-alone stores for L’Agent, on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles and on Elizabeth Street in Manhattan’s NoLIta neighborhood.
Today, L’Agent will also reveal its relaunched Web site and unveil its first e-commerce platform. L’Agent has also added Saks Fifth Avenue to its list of wholesale clients.
Cruz directed last year’s short film for L’Agent, and this time she’s the writer, director and model. The film shows a lonely, parched explorer who comes across a lingerie-clad band of women dancing to a house beat in the middle of the desert. Cruz sits in the driver’s seat of an old Cadillac drinking a bottle of water while the buff Tracy Anderson dancers do their thing.
The actress worked with Anderson on the choreography — it’s a new routine — while the dancers move to music by Cruz’s brother, Eduardo Cruz.
“Monica and I are really happy with our autumn-winter 2014 collection. It’s really vibrant, so I felt it was really important to create a very sensual film that could also tell a little story, like the first one I did,” said Cruz, referring to last year’s effort, where her husband, Javier Bardem, made a cameo appearance.
“I got the idea for the film while I was listening to the track from Optimist, ‘Single Dutch’ by Eduardo Cruz. His music always inspires me so much. Also, collaborating with Tracy on the choreography was the perfect fit, and brought a great dynamic to the set.”
The Agent Provocateur main collection campaign, by contrast, is all about Seventies-style indulgence, glitter balls and louche private clubs. The campaign will launch on Monday and will appear on the brand’s Web site.
“We wanted it to be opulent, luxe and ladylike, and we were looking at Jerry Hall as our muse,” said Sarah Shotton, creative director of Agent Provocateur. “We came up with the idea of a women’s-only club — where the women are in control.”
Christian Larsson shot Missy Rayder in the fall collection, which includes lace prints, Lurex embroideries and ribbon flocking.
The company’s chief executive, Garry Hogarth, declined to comment Thursday on the strategic review, but said in an earlier interview that international expansion is rolling ahead.
By March, there will be 110 Agent Provocateur main collection stores, with openings planned for Macau, Manhattan, Las Vegas, Berlin, Toronto, Saint Petersburg and Moscow. Regarding L’Agent, he said the brand will open in Moscow and at Holt Renfrew in Canada, while the company is looking for store space in London.
In the 2012-13 fiscal year, sales at Agent Provocateur shot up 24 percent to 39 million pounds, or $61.6 million, while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose 55 percent to 6.2 million pounds, or $9.8 million at average exchange rates for the period.
Sales in the 2013-14 year climbed about 25 percent, while the earnings figure followed a similar trend. The brand’s biggest market is the U.S., followed by the U.K.
Earlier this year, Agent Provocateur launched a fifth fragrance called Fatale, its first under a new, 10-and-a-half-year partnership with Inter Parfums.