Christopher Kane

PARISKering’s revelation that it is in talks with Christopher Kane to sell the brand back to the British designer indicates that its house-cleaning spree isn’t over.

The French company, which is positioning itself as a pure luxury player, has engaged in a flurry of high-profile moves since the beginning of the year, notably spinning out of the group its stake in Puma, and selling its holding in Stella McCartney back to her.

Kering is announcing that discussions are under way with Mr. Christopher Kane about the conditions in which the British designer could take back full control of the eponymous brand. Christopher Kane and Kering wish to continue to collaborate with the aim of achieving a gradual and harmonious transition,” the company said in a brief statement.

Kering intends to list the stake under “non-current assets held for sale and discontinued operations” in its half-yearly accounts to June 30, to be published July 26.

Kane was unavailable for comment on Thursday.

Kering purchased a 51 percent stake in Kane’s business in January 2013 as part of an aggressive acquisitions strategy that also saw the company buy brands such as Pomellato and Brioni. The acquisitions came as growth at Gucci was slowing and Kering was looking for other brands to bolster its portfolio against competition from LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Those deals were two years before the appointment of Alessandro Michele as creative director at Gucci, a move that set the brand on the path to skyrocketing growth that now has it setting the goal of reaching 10 billion euros in sales.

At the time of Kering acquiring its stake in Kane, WWD described him as London’s new leading man, and the commercial breakout success of his generation in the British capital. The purchase came as Kane was wrapping up a successful, three-year collaboration on Versace’s Versus collection and against the backdrop of rumors that he was ready to take the top job at Balenciaga, which is now designed by Demna Gvasalia.

Kering said its aspiration was to take the brand global, and on Kering’s watch Kane opened a flagship store — designed by John Pawson — on Mount Street in London, and launched accessories with Kane’s signature safety buckle detail. Last summer, Kering also opened a temporary summer shop for Kane on Bond Street.

Kane had said he partnered with Kering because of its reputation in developing luxury brands.

Managing the day-to-day business proved problematic, with Kane’s business seeing a revolving door of chief executive officers since it purchased its majority stake in the business.

A graduate of Central Saint Martins, Kane founded his brand in London in 2006, and initially focused on women’s wear in the designer segment. One of London’s favorite fashion showmen, Kane is part of a crop of young designers who started revving up London’s fashion scene more than a decade ago. He won the BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2011, bagging a cash prize of 200,000 pounds, or $322,500, and access to industry mentors.

Kering’s latest string of divestitures raised questions about what could be next or whether an exit from Christopher Kane might cap the run of activity.

Puma’s financial momentum last year had increased pressure on Kering to move the asset out of the group before it grew too big; the French group’s intentions to focus on luxury had been widely flagged. Kering continues to hold a 16 percent interest in Puma.

Last week’s announcement that Tomas Maier is leaving Kering’s Bottega Veneta after 17 years as head designer there prompted speculation about his signature collection, which is a joint venture with his soon-to-be former employer.

“We’re operating as usual,” the brand’s ceo Laurent Claquin told WWD earlier this week when asked whether Maier’s departure from Bottega would impact the future of the partnership.

There also remains the question of Volcom, a sportswear company purchased by the French group in 2011, as part of its plans to build a sports and lifestyle division around Puma. Puma ceo Bjørn Gulden in January said his company had no plans to take on Volcom.

Kering also invested in fashion label Altuzarra in 2013, in which it still holds a minority stake.

The French group has defied expectations and outpaced luxury peers with sales fueled by its star brand Gucci, which has clocked over a year of growth exceeding 35 percent.

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