May 23, 2012
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Kazakh socialite "Lady Goga" bags Vionnet

May 23, 2012

Vionnet autumn-winter 2012 / Photo: Vionnet
MILAN - Kazakh billionaire Goga Ashkenazi, best known for her opulent lifestyle and high-society friends, has agreed to buy a majority stake in fashion house Vionnet, the latest acquisition of a European luxury brand by new-money investors.

The London-based entrepreneur with interests in the oil industry will help the house, founded in 1912 by French couturier Madeleine Vionnet, grow in a globalised industry, despite headwinds in Europe, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

Vionnet, famous for its fluid asymmetric dresses worn by movie stars such as Madonna and Natalie Portman, was relaunched in 2009 by a group of Italian investors led by former Valentino chief Matteo Marzotto.

The company expects revenues of 9.5 million euros ($12.12 million) in 2012, a drop in the ocean in the multi-billion-dollar luxury industry, but that number is on the rise. Its revenues jumped 40 percent to 7.3 million euros in 2011.

"I believe fashion brands must find a way to fund their growth while respecting their creative process," Marzotto told Reuters.

Vionnet aims to open a monobrand store in Paris after opening its first showroom in Milan this year. Its 1,400-euro dresses are sold in 190 multibrand stores worldwide.

Marzotto, a member of Italy's leading textile family, bought the small French house three years ago, at the peak of the financial crisis, after leading Valentino for two years.

A keen investor, Marzotto said he was committed to the brand, which he will continue to manage with his two Italian partners.

Marzotto said Ashkenazi, also a client of Vionnet, had been looking to invest in a fashion brand.

A succession of investors from fast-growing markets have been snapping up high-end European brands. Chinese YGM Trading Ltd agreed this month to buy Aquascutum, the failed luxury clothes maker that has dressed royalty and politicians, for 15 million pounds ($24 million).

In December, Chinese menswear group Trinity Ltd bought Italian fashion house Cerruti for $70 million.

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