Small labels lure big bucks in fashion's latest trend

Wed Mar 13, 2013 4:50pm EDT
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By Astrid Wendlandt

PARIS (Reuters) - Christophe Lemaire has spent the past three years designing dresses for Hermes. Now he wants to develop his own brand and ride a wave of investor interest in new labels which have the potential to become global brands.

He's not alone.

Whether it is private financing or takeovers by major luxury groups like LVMH, the latest trend in fashion is to find a promising niche label that has no history but plenty of imagination.

Fuelling the bull market for young designers is executives' conviction that demand for luxury goods is strengthening further in markets like China and the United States, especially for the kind of fresh looks that only new blood can create.

"People are taking comfort in the luxury goods sector's track record and growth prospects, which is encouraging them even more to invest in young niche fashion brands," a Paris-based banker said, declining to be named.

Take Damir Doma, a 31-year-old Croatia-born designer who worked with Belgian designer Raf Simons, now at LVMH's Christian Dior. His brand's parent recently sold a 5 percent stake to Bernd Beetz, former chief executive of Coty who is still the board of the perfume and cosmetics maker.

And the designer has attracted the attention of another big name - Concetta Lanciaux, former adviser to LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault, who built her reputation on her ability to spot talent and who sits on Damir Doma's board.

"I think designers are opening up their capital earlier now because they understand that it allows them to grow faster," Lanciaux said, adding that Doma was for her a "modern Armani".   Continued...

A model presents a creation by French designer Christophe Lemaire as part of his Fall-Winter 2013/2014 women's ready-to-wear collection for fashion house Hermes during Paris Fashion Week March 5, 2013. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes