ELIZABETH EMANUEL FINDS NEW BACKER

Byline: James Fallon

LONDON — Designer Elizabeth Emanuel has been rescued from near-bankruptcy by British jeans manufacturer Shami Ahmed, who plans to pump significant investment into the company.
Ahmed, 35, owns the British jeans brand Joe Bloggs, which is the fourth-largest label in the U.K. — behind Levi’s, Wrangler and Lee — with sales of about $72 million (45 million pounds) a year.
Emanuel, 44, claimed the deal is the first time in British fashion history that a major streetwear brand has supported a couturier. Emanuel’s financial problems stemmed from her previous backer, Hamlet PLC, going into receivership with debts of $64 million (40 million pounds). Hamlet owned 48 percent of Emanuel’s company, which was formed in May. The designer owned the remainder.
Emanuel, who along with her former husband David, is most noted for designing Princess Diana’s wedding dress. She is proceeding with her plans to launch a ready-to-wear line for fall-winter 1998 to go along with her luxe label.
She also plans to hold a runway show in New York in November, although no date has been set.
“This backing came in the nick of time; we were just about to close the doors,” she said.
Emanuel contacted Ahmed about a month ago but had received no reply until two weeks ago when he faxed her, asking for her business plan. She then telephoned to tell him that her company was close to going bankrupt, and he instructed her to catch a train to his Manchester headquarters to discuss a deal. It was completed several days later.
The designer plans to retain her retail shop in London and will move her studio into Joe Bloggs’s new London headquarters in February 1998.
Ahmed hopes to build sales of the Elizabeth Emanuel collection in the U.K. and in the U.S., where he sees significant potential. Emanuel said there are plans to open more freestanding shops as well as leased departments in the U.K.
“He has said that if it needs 10 million pounds or whatever, he will do what it takes to build this into a major label,” Emanuel said.
“I believe that it is vitally important to invest in the creativity that Britain produces to ensure that designer talent stays in this country,” Ahmed said.

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