PARIS — Could South Korea’s fashion giants be ready to tackle the international market?
In a deal that might be a harbinger for an industry so far focused mainly on domestic business, Shinsegae International is to acquire the Paul Poiret trademarks, WWD has learned. An official announcement is expected today.
Shinsegae International, a division of the retail conglomerate that imports foreign brands and distributes them through its department stores, is expected to first launch fragrances and beauty products ahead of an eventual launch into fashion and accessories, according to Pierre Mallevays, managing director of London-based Savigny Partners, the boutique M&A firm that spearheaded the transaction, representing the seller, Luvanis SA.
“They want to reinvent the DNA and make it relevant to today,” Mallevays said. “They’re not buying it to make it a Korean brand. They’re buying it to develop it based out of Paris and distribute it on the international market. They’re very sophisticated, and they really understand brands.”
In his view, the transaction could be the first of many as South Korea’s fashion players, facing a sluggish domestic market and an administration less friendly toward business, seek to become brand-builders and export their expertise on retail and fashion globally.
Samsung affiliate Cheil Industries, LG Fashion, E-Land Group and Hyundai Department Stores are believed to be among large firms that could make a play for international brands and expansion, challenging Hong Kong and China as the twin hotbeds of fashion dealmaking as those latter countries struggle with various internal woes.
Financial terms of the Poiret transaction were not disclosed, but sources had estimated it would attract bids in the mid- to single-digit millions. The global trademark rights also come with an extensive archive collection.
Harold Choi, president and chief executive officer of Shinsegae International, said Poiret “bridged fashion with the art world and invented much of what is still taking place in fashion today. We look forward to working to create today’s version of the brand across several product categories.”
Shinsegae International has its own premium brands, including Vov and Vidi Vici, and its portfolio of foreign luxury brands including Givenchy, Céline, Brunello Cucinelli and Moncler. The division acts as the fashion and beauty arm of Shinsegae Group, which bills itself as retailer of premium brands, with over $20 billion in total assets.
Luvanis SA is a company under the stewardship of French entrepreneur Arnaud de Lummen, who has carved out a business awakening dormant brands. He reintroduced Vionnet ready-to-wear in 2006, later offloading the trademarks, and famously sold Moynat, a prestigious 19th-century trunk maker, to Groupe Arnault, which recently expanded the brand into Greater China.
De Lummen said he was convinced by Shinsegae’s “ambition, vision and creative energy as well as their respect for the wonderful heritage of Poiret.”
Mallevays cited healthy interest in the Poiret trademarks, with investors encouraged by success stories such as Delvaux, the Belgian leather goods firm currently riding high as it charts global expansion.
“It shows that if you have the right strategy and the brand has great heritage, the potential is there,” he said.
WWD was the first to report that the brand was up for grabs on Oct. 28, 2014, initially on offer via an online auction method, propelling an under-the-radar process from lobby bars and boardrooms to the realm of downloadable non-disclosure agreements.
Registered in Luxembourg, Luvanis holds a cache of historic names including Mainbocher, storied footwear brand Herbert Levine, American couture brand Charles James, and 19th-century trunk maker Au Départ. De Lummen has also been closely involved in the revival of Philadelphia trunk and bag specialist Belber, with the first collection expected imminently. De Lummen was also recently in talks with several investment funds to relaunch some of his sleeping beauty brands under a dedicated luxury fund, sources said.
Although Poiret products have been absent from the market for more than 80 years, de Lummen has called the designer’s aesthetic a “pervasive influence in fashion” and the designer a figure who was larger-than-life and with many artistic, business and social pursuits.
Dubbed the “King of Fashion” between 1904 and 1924, the French designer was known for bringing strident color, harem pants, kimono coats and hobble skirts into fashion. Son of a Parisian cloth merchant, he sold sketches to couturiers and started his career at Doucet and Worth before launching his own house.
After World War I, he refused to change his exotic approach and faded from the fashion scene, closing shop around 1930. He died in 1944 after years of poverty and illness.
Yet his oeuvre has a following among fashion cognoscenti. Azzedine Alaïa organized a retrospective and auction in Paris in 2005, and The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art mounted an exhibition in 2007, tracing the importance of Poiret’s wife and coconspirator Denise during the designer’s creative peak in the 1910s.