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#WattsWhat: David Watts on fashion designers who have lost their brands

David Watts
16 March 2016

With the breaking news that brothers Carlo and Ennio Capasa (above) have walked away from the Italian luxury fashion brand Costume National - the brand they founded - it raises the question once again: how do designers lose their brands and sometimes even the rights to use their own name?

Costume National is owned by a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based holding company Sequedge Group, which first acquired a stake in the business in 2009. Surprisingly, designers losing control of the brand they founded (often in their own name) happens more frequently than people might suspect and usually comes down to creative differences and disagreements about how the business should be developed.

Here are some other cases of designers who fell foul of their investors.


Helmut Lang

Helmut Lang- Known for a minimalist aesthetic, exacting cut and use of tech fabrics, the Helmut Lang brand was exalted by the fashion press in its day. In 1999, Lang entered into a partnership with the Prada Group which resulted in the acquisition of the Helmut Lang brand in 2004, and Lang's subsequent surprise departure from the label in 2005.

Prada consequently sold the brand to Link Theory, Japan in 2006. Link Theory re-launched the Helmut Lang label with new designers in 2007. In February 2014, Michael and Nicole Colovos, after almost eight years of being creative directors, left the company. Helmut Lang walked away from fashion and is now an artist in East Hampton, New York.

Jil Sander

Jil Sander

Jil Sander - a veteran of the fashion industry Sander joined forces with the Prada group in 2000 when they acquired 75% of the business she founded in 1968. Within six months she had "left the busines". It has been widely reported that Sander did not see eye to eye with Patrizio Bertelli, chairman and CEO of Prada Group about the business direction of the brand.

She returned to the brand in 2003 but once again left in 2004. Sander came back yet again in 2013 and then, after citing "personal reasons", she announced that her AW14 collection would be her last.

Jil Sander SpA was sold to a private equity firm, Change Capital Partners, in 2006, then in 2008 to Japanese apparel specialists Onward Holdings Co. Sander went on to collaborate in 2009 with Fast Retailing's UNIQLO high street brand creating a +J collection, as she was unable to use her own name which is still owned by Onward Holdings Co Ltd. The collaboration with UNIQLO lasted for three years.


Roland Mouret

Roland Mouret

Roland Mouret - French designer Mouret launched his eponymous collection in 1998 and shot to fame with his "Galaxy" dress in 2006. Soon after he had a big falling out with his investors Sharai and Andre Meyers who bought a major stake in his business in 1998, which resulted in him resigning and walking away from his own brand, as he had signed away the management rights in 2000.

Mouret launched a new womenswear brand, RM, in 2007 and successfully managed to buy back his name in 2010. For Mouret, now in a joint venture with 19 Management's Simon Fuller, success has been a long time coming. Mouret now operates from an atelier in Carlos Place, Mayfair and has since developed shoes, handbags and sunglasses collections.

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