LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has gone from a perennial fan of Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s Rodarte to a potential investor.

This story first appeared in the August 27, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The French luxury conglomerate and the American brand have held on-and-off discussions about an acquisition since spring, although recently the talks have trailed off, according to market sources. They stressed no deal is in the works.

Speculation about a possible connection between the two has come up time and again, especially around New York Fashion Week.

Pierre-Yves Roussel, chief executive officer of LVMH’s fashion division, was once again sitting in the front row at the Rodarte fall show in February. Roussel was coy about his presence at the time and would only say, “We still love what they do.”

Neither Rodarte nor LVMH could be reached for comment by press time Thursday.

Rodarte would be an atypical acquisition for LVMH, which has recently shown scant interest in adding to its fashion portfolio. A recent exception was its 49 percent investment in Edun last year, which was considered more symbolic given Edun’s ethical slant and famous founders: rocker Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson.

LVMH, parent to Fendi, Givenchy and Pucci, as well as cosmetics, spirits and retail brands, tends to prefer heritage fashion brands rather than upstart designer labels.

The luxury giant has focused on organic growth in recent years, making only select investments in nonfashion properties. In 2008, LVMH bought controlling stakes in watch firm Hublot, yacht maker Feadship and Champagne house Montaudon.

The Mulleavys’ ethereal designs have succeeded in drawing critical praise, a fervent following and major awards. The pair won the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards fashion design category in July, and last year reeled in the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Womenswear Designer of the Year award.

Still, the brand is more about buzz and fashion cachet than financial pop. Sources estimated Rodarte has annual revenues shy of $2 million and has incurred losses. Last winter, the brand had a limited edition line at Target.

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