New money drawn to old fashion yarns

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 July, 2012, 12:00am


I'm in London this weekend and will attend the Kent & Curwen sponsored Royal Polo tomorrow. It is a quintessentially English tradition that will see the likes of princes William and Harry take to the field.

Few know that the heritage English label sponsoring the event is now owned by Hong Kong trading giant Li & Fung, which also owns storied European labels Cerruti and Gieves & Hawkes. Recently, Hong Kong company YCM acquired the troubled British Aquascutum brand. And last week it was reported that the famous Italian house of Valentino has been bought by an investment company backed by the Qatari royal family, who already own Harrods.

The small, oil-rich Gulf state is home to many haute couture clients. So more such acquisitions can be expected.

Founded by Valentino Garavani in 1960, the label has become a symbol of elegant, feminine European glamour. Valentino still has its core identity and signatures, such as roses and 'Valentino red', but cuts and silhouettes have become more contemporary.

Asian and Middle Eastern investors in luxury seem to be particularly attracted to fashion houses with a sense of heritage. They are willing to pay dearly for those things which are not easily acquired.

The industry is watching Valentino closely to see how its new owners develop the brand and business. Such investments have saved many distinguished labels from disappearing. German leather goods label MCM's 2005 acquisition by a South Korean company is a story of turnaround success.

Thanks to a redesign and some aggressive and savvy marketing, the once-stuffy label known for its quality has been turned into a monogrammed luxury product that appeals to young, hip Asian clients.

Smart investors are well aware that playing up the history of a label appeals to today's consumer.