Appeared In
Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 12/12/2013

MILAN — After a three-year re-branding program and under a new owner, the MCS label will enter its next phase of development in 2014.

This story first appeared in the December 12, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Emerisque Brands, which in April took control of the label formerly known as Marlboro Classics from the Permira fund, is discontinuing the company’s women’s division and focusing on men’s wear. The brand is returning to its original American West rugged lifestyle image and further strengthening its ties to Italian design and fabrics with the help of its first head of design, Alessandro Crosato, who has worked with the likes of sportswear brand Sergio Tacchini. While the company previously relied on a group of outside designers, it will now have an in-house team.

“We are bringing back the silhouette of the rider, we have the global rights to that logo, which is indelible and very visible,” said Betsy McCullar, Emerisque principal. “The combination of the American West inspiration with the refinement of Italian design makes for a very tasty brand. We are also planning on a fuller product assortment for 2014 with new categories, such as underwear and swimwear, developing our core casual sportswear collections.”

Massimo Gasparini, president of MCS, said men’s was introduced by the then-owners of the license, the Marzotto family, in 1987 and that “it was always difficult to find the proper DNA for women’s, which did not add real value to customers.” The women’s line will be discontinued starting with the fall 2014 season.

Emerisque is leveraging its retail expertise to boost distribution of the brand in emerging markets including the Middle East, Greater Russia, Greater China and India, in light of the “appetite” for affordable luxury labels in those regions, said McCullar.

While financial details of the transaction were not disclosed, McCuller said MCS had been “slipping in the red” in 2012, due to the general economy and the brand’s exposure to the suffering Italian wholesale channel. Sales now total 100 million euros, or $137 million at current exchange. Over the summer, the new owners negotiated with trade unions and eventually had to let go of 60 workers. “We knew we had to go through a restructuring process, looking at a turnaround from a wholesale-driven business, but we think like a retailer,” said McCullar, noting that this was Emerisque’s first investment in Italy, and that for this reason it was especially important “to be respectful of local processes.”

The company now employs 350 people globally. Headquarters will be moved from Valdagno, near Vicenza, to another site near that Italian city. “It’s important to stay in the region and support it,” said Gasparini, adding that the collections are produced in Europe and the Far East.

McCullar said that Emerisque’s experience in retail distribution will help boost business globally. “Our philosophy is to export the brand as much as possible,” she said. MCS is available at 1,000 points of sale including 150 retail units. Gasparini said Emerisque is already actively selling the brand in markets such as the U.S., China and South America.

In November, Emerisque also took control of Industries Sportswear Company SpA from Moncler SpA. The sportswear division includes brands Marina Yachting, Henry Cotton’s, Coast Weber & Ahaus and the 18CRR81 Cerruti license.

“We are a growth-oriented international investor, looking for brands that have global appeal with compelling stories that can be important to emerging market consumers,” said McCullar.

ISC is based in Trebaseleghe, near Padova, Italy, but Gasparini said it will be moving to new premises in Mestre, in the country’s Veneto region — a plan that was in the cards before the sale, he said.

“We’ve been looking to invest in Italy for some time, in medium-sized companies that did not have the expertise or the capital to look internationally,” said McCullar. “This was an opportunistic rather than strategic move. This portfolio is so differentiated, each brand is so different in personality, there is little overlap in distribution; it’s affordable luxury, which is very important in emerging markets. There is this white space between luxury and fast fashion, especially in Asia where they love international brands, and they need to build a wardrobe.”

Men’s casual sportswear in Asia is growing and these brands will be able to rely on shared services, she explained.

While Gasparini noted that it’s still early since it has been only four weeks since the deal, the executive said that Enrico Acciai will continue to be general manager and group chief executive officer of ICS.

Founded in 2004, other Emerisque investments include Hickey Freeman, Hart Schaffner Marx, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Exclusively Misook, Christopher Blue, Palm Beach, Sansabelt and Monarchy.