NEW YORK — In what appears to be yet another tale of a marriage between a designer and their backer gone sour, Devi Kroell has left the company that bears her name.

This story first appeared in the May 21, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

On Thursday, the six-year-old luxury accessories and ready-to-wear label confirmed that “Kroell has decided that she will step down from the company she established. She informed her staff on Tuesday that she is resigning as the [chief executive officer] and creative director of the company, although she will remain a shareholder and a member of the board of directors.”

The board named Ralph Bartel interim ceo, and the company said it plans to continue to build on the “design concepts” of the brand.

Europe’s Bartel family, which took a 12.5 percent stake in Lanvin parent Arpège SAS in November, also has been the silent financial partner behind Kroell’s business since 2008.

Kroell launched her brand with a line of handbags in exotic skins in 2004. She quickly established a following among editors and retailers with her python bags and wooden clutches, and her early successes led her to win the Swarovski Perry Ellis Award for Accessory Design at the 2006 CFDA Fashion Awards.

Kroell grew her brand with shoes in 2006, and ready-to-wear two years later. With Bartel’s financial backing, Kroell started to expand, opening a 3,000-square-foot store at 717 Madison Avenue designed by New York design firm Space4 Architecture in October, followed by a store at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. As the time of the Manhattan opening, Kroell also stated plans to open units in Houston, Chicago, Florida, California and a second New York address within the next two years.

However, the relationship between Kroell and her investor seems to have become strained. Ralph Bartel was the founder of the New York-based Internet media firm Travelzoo, was its ceo and president until 2008 and, in recent months, is said to have become increasingly involved in the day-to-day operations at Devi Kroell.

Kroell could not be reached for comment.

While the designer maintains a stake and her board seat, she is unlikely to take an active role, or any role at all, in the future of the firm. She is said to have a new project in the pipeline.

“Devi has achieved her goal in creating a worldwide luxury brand,” the company stated. “She will now be moving onto new challenges. We at Devi Kroell Inc. wish her the greatest success in her future projects.”

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