ELIZABETH EMANUEL NEEDS BACKER TO STAY OPEN
Byline: James Fallon
LONDON — Elizabeth Emanuel, half of the team that designed the wedding dress of the late Princess of Wales, said Tuesday that her company will have to close unless it can find a new backer.
Emanuel, who designed the dress with her former husband, David Emanuel, set up a new company in May with backing from British clothing importer Hamlet Group Ltd. Hamlet owned 48 percent of Elizabeth Emanuel PLC, with the designer owning the remainder. Emanuel hired staff, set up a design studio and opened a shop in London to take orders for her first couture collection.
But Hamlet filed for receivership in late August owing $63.3 million (40 million pounds). In addition to its stake in Elizabeth Emanuel PLC, it owned the brands Nougat and Dare to Bare under its Jeffrey Rogers (Imports) division and Hamlet Sports, a licensee for World Cup soccer apparel. Hamlet had sales of more than $189.9 million (120 million pounds) a year but recently hit cash-flow problems.
Three brands have since been sold by Coopers & Lybrand, Hamlet’s receivers, but Emanuel said her company is still at the start-up stage and so its sale is not being considered by the receivers.
The designer thought she had found a new backer in the form of a British satellite dish manufacturer, but it pulled out this week after deciding fashion was too far removed from its core business.
The news came just three weeks before the start of London Fashion Week, when Emanuel planned to launch a ready-to-wear line.
“The Emanuel name is so well-known, with a real romantic image,” she said. “The plan now was to make it available to a much wider public.”
The ready-to-wear would have retailed for about $791 (500 pounds) for suits and eveningwear, compared with her couture prices of $2,000 to $3,200 for eveningwear and $5,700 to $9,000 for bridalwear.
She now is hoping to attract a backer from the U.S., which she believes understands the concept of branding much more than the U.K. market. She also believes her romantic day, evening and bridal apparel will sell best in America. Emanuel did a trunk show at Saks Fifth Avenue in June and said she was in talks with the store about doing an exclusive bridal collection.
“The difficulty we’re in has nothing to do with my company,” she said. “We didn’t know Hamlet was in such trouble. We were desperate to tell people about our predicament, but then the horrible thing happened with Diana, and it all seemed so insignificant. But we are due to close down unless we can find a backer, and I’m desperate for my company to keep going.”