MCCARTNEY IN GUCCI TALKS
Byline: Miles Socha / With contributions from Samantha Conti, Milan
PARIS — Stella McCartney, for weeks considered a front-runner for the designer slot at LVMH-controlled Givenchy, might in fact be headed for rival camp Gucci Group.
Sources here said the designer has had lengthy discussions with the Italian group, with negotiations centered on the launch of a Stella McCartney fashion house.
It could not be learned if a deal has been concluded, but McCartney, a frequent dinner companion of Gucci Group creative director Tom Ford and a regular fixture in his front row, has long had warm relations with the firm.
“I think Stella would fit very nicely in the group,” said a source.
Currently the designer of Chloe, McCartney has been credited with bringing new luster and buzz to the Paris-based house and attracting a new generation of customers with her hip, cheeky approach to fashion. Although parent Compagnie Richemont Financiere does not break out results for Chloe, sales are said to have increased dramatically since she took over the label from Karl Lagerfeld in 1997. At present, the collection is sold in about 270 doors worldwide.
But McCartney is said to be frustrated with management at Richemont, whose core expertise is in watches and jewelry, not fashion.
Gucci Group, which is rapidly adding to its stable of brands and designers, recently completed its acquisitions of controlling stakes in Alexander McQueen and Bottega Veneta. As reported in WWD, Gucci also has its eye on Balenciaga and its hot designer, Nicolas Ghesquiere, as well as the Geneva-based jewelry and watch firm Chopard and the Italian fragrance company Acqua di Parma.
McCartney had no comment. Gucci and Chloe officials also declined to comment.
However, Gucci Group chairman and ceo Domenico De Sole has said that part of the company’s strategy is to launch new brands as well as acquire ones that are already established. An industry source in Milan said: “Launching a Stella McCartney fashion house would make absolute sense in the context of Gucci’s growth strategy.”
Meanwhile, a potentially contentious point in negotiations with Gucci is the issue of control of the Stella McCartney trademark. Gucci’s track record indicates it prefers majority stakes, but McCartney is said to be reluctant to sell her name.
The daughter of billionaire rock legend Paul McCartney and a major fashion star in her own right, McCartney would have no problem raising enough capital to launch her own house, sources said. However, McCartney is said to be attracted to Gucci Group’s strong track record in brand and retail development.
She will have to make up her mind soon. She is in the midst of negotiations to renew her contract with Chloe, which is believed to expire in June.
Meanwhile, Chloe has been on the move, leveraging McCartney’s rock ‘n’ roll reputation and youth appeal by launching a licensed secondary line called See by Chloe for fall 2001 retailing. As reported, the company has said it expects the secondary line to eclipse the volume of the collection line in three to four years. It’s also introducing a handbag collection and has its sights set on lingerie, footwear and a new perfume.
This is not the first time McCartney’s future has been linked to Gucci. In 1999, speculation began heating up that she might join Gucci, but, as an animal rights activist, the prospect of working with fur and leather presented too big an obstacle.