Apr 11, 2014
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PVH acquires stake in Karl Lagerfeld

Apr 11, 2014

The American company PVH, one of the largest fashion groups listed on Wall Street, has taken up a minority stake in the brand Karl Lagerfeld. The famous designer’s fashion label did not figure into the sale of Tommy Hilfiger, its previous parent company, to the group PVH in 2010. Since 2006, it has since remained at the hands of the British investment fund Apax Partners.

Both Apax and Pier Paolo Righi, the company’s CEO since 2012, have backed a repositioning of the brand into the affordable luxury segment, as well as the expansion of retail in Europe and Asia.

According to Pier Paolo Righi, the pace of international development, means "an opening every three weeks." The latest openings took place in Munich and London last month, its largest European concept store to date now on Regent Street.

Karl Lagerfeld and the CEO of the brand, Pier Paolo Righi, at the opening on Regent Street. Photo DRR

Priority on North America

A major step remains to be taken in this conquest of retail: Karl Lagerfeld’s first stores in America. The agreement with PVH seems directly in line with that aspiration.

The American parent company of Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Warnaco (which controls CK’s denim and underwear licenses) is in fact gaining, for an undisclosed sum via this agreement, the right of first offer for licencing in the North American market.

If PVH’s move seems like a step backwards, the links between Hilfiger and Lagerfeld were not all broken with the purchase of the former in 2010. For example, both houses have maintained offices in Amsterdam, where part of the Karl Lagerfeld studio is still based today.

What’s more, Tommy Hilfiger himself, as well as the CEO of his label, Fred Gehring, have remained stakeholders in Karl Lagerfeld despite the companies’ 2010 separation. PVH said in its statement that its minority interest would "benefit from the designer brand’s growth”. While this growth may not have been strong when Tommy Hilfiger was purchased in 2010, given the expansion of Karl Lagerfeld network over the past twelve months, is likely to be healthy in 2014.

Synergy of perspectives

"We believe PVH’s strong track record in supporting the growth opportunity of global designer lifestyle brands will be a big asset," said Pier Paolo Righi in a statement.

But the expertise of PVH can benefit Karl in other ways as well, from sourcing to licencing. To recall, Karl Lagerfeld’s production strategy has undergone some adjustments since its inception two years ago, not least because of the withdrawal of one of its two main Italian licensees, Ittierre, in 2012.

Apax Partners has backed Karl Lagerfeld since 2006, nearly eight years of support, longer than average in this field. In case of the commercial success Karl Lagerfeld’s strategy, the British investment fund could be tempted to let the brand go, if it turns out (finally) to be profitable. It’s a possibility that would leave PVH free, to eventually become the majority stakeholder of Karl Lagerfeld.

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