TOKYO — Japanese designer Hanae Mori is about to get a taste of 21st century fashion management.

Mitsui & Co. and investors including London’s N.M. Rothschild & Sons Ltd. are funding the establishment of a new company that will manage Hanae Mori’s ready-to-wear and trademark and licensing businesses. According to reports, Mitsui, a major Japanese trading company, and Active Investments Partners Fund, which includes Mitsui, Rothschild and institutional investors, in March will invest $31 million to $38 million to finance acquisition of the ready-to-wear and trademark components of the Mori business and subsequent working capital needs. Dollar figures have been converted from the yen at current exchange.

Mori’s haute couture business will be housed at a new company, to be called HM Haute Couture.

The parties declined to confirm reports of the reorganization of the Mori business, specify its timing or refer to it as anything more than a “renewal plan.”

The couture arm will be independently operated by Mori who, according to an announcement, will pursue “the essence of the brand as represented by the butterfly design.”

A joint planning and design team for the ready-to-wear business will be established at Mori’s Tokyo-based licensee, All Style Inc. Kei Mori, the designer’s second son, plans to introduce a new high-end rtw line for fall-winter “under Hanae Mori’s guidance.” The companies said the line will be aimed at women aged 30 to 50.

Mitsui said expansion of the Mori rtw business will come through new licensees and noted that it has a strong track record of successfully developing a market in Japan as licensee for such European brands as Burberry and Pierre Cardin.

Hanae Mori, Mitsui and Active Investments will also make use of the fund’s network of contacts around the world in expanding overseas sales of Hanae Mori branded merchandise, the announcement said.

Mori’s worldwide business, including merchandise sales and licensing royalties, currently totals about $154 million a year. Reportedly, the new company planned by Mitsui and the fund will take over Hanae Mori’s network of about 60 retail boutiques.

“The new project is a collaboration with Mme Mori,” a Mitsui executive told WWD, stressing that the internationally renowned designer who pioneered Japan’s fashion business will continue to be the core of the new operation.

Market observers cite Japan’s long recession and the increasingly aggressive postures of European and American design houses in the Japanese market for the restructuring of Mori’s business. A well-financed collaboration with a firm of Mitsui’s size and scope will help the designer compete more effectively in the global market.

Currently, the Hanae Mori group has approximately 200 people on its payroll. It is unknown at this time if the consolidation will entail job cuts or involve relocations of employees to the new project.

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