Chanel Buys into Lace Supplier, Continues Larger Acquisition Trend

Chanel has announced that it acquired a minority stake in French lacemaker Sophie Hallette's parent company, Groupe Halesco. Founded in 1887, La Maison Sophie Hallette has worked with nearly every major fashion brand, including Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen (its lace went into the making of Kate Middleton’s wedding gown), Valentino, Burberry, Armani, Prada, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Erdem and Dolce & Gabbana, among others. After a longstanding history between the celebrated lace brand and the Paris-based house, which is under the creative direction of Karl Lagerfeld, the two have joined forces officially.  

According to a statement from Chanel issued on Tuesday, “The partnership aims to perpetuate the historical lace sector — the pride of Calais and Caudry's heritage. It also aims to maintain in France a unique know-how and the essential Leavers, these bicentennial machines that allow to create very high-end and labeled lace, which is crucial to meet the demand of haute couture and creation.”

Chanel’s investment comes on the heels of a number of acquisitions by rival houses over the past several years. In 2009, several years after Hermès announced that it has begun breeding its own crocodiles on farms in Australia in an attempt to meet demand for its pricey Birkin and Kelly bags, the design house acquired Tannerie d’Annonay, a calf leather specialist located in Annonay in France. Last year, the Paris-based company announced that Hermès Cuirs Précieux, the tannery division of Hermès International, had acquired French calf leather specialist Tanneries du Puy for an undisclosed sum as part of its ongoing policy of bringing its suppliers in-house.

In 2011, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton bought into Heng Long, a Singapore-based crocodile tanning company; LVMH and Heng Long maintain ownership stakes of 51% and 49%, respectively. Two years later, Chanel bought a lamb hide tannery, France-based tannery Bodin-Joyeux, which had long been responsible for providing the iconic design house with a portion of its leather. (Note: The house that Coco built actually began its acquisitions years ago, buying into Desrues, a button maker in 1984; Lesage, an embroidery company, in 2002; and Barrie, a Scotland-based cashmere manufacturer, in 2012). Around the same time as the most recent Chanel acquisition, luxury conglomerate, Kering, which owns Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, and Balenciaga, among others, acquired a majority stake in French tannery France Coco for an undisclosed sum. "This acquisition will allow Kering's brands to further secure a sustainable supply of high-quality crocodilian skins," a company spokesperson said.

The following year, in 2014, Prada entered into a deal to gain a controlling interest in France's Tannerie Megisserie Hervy, which specializes in lambskin tanning, in particular soft plonge nappa leather. Prada also entered into the venture with Tuscan tannery Conceria Superior, a long-time industrial partner of the Milan-based brand.

Luxury houses have also been turning to food and beverage as a recent subject of acquisitions. Prada acquired, revamped and reopened (just in time for the Milan Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2016 collections) Pasticceria Marchesi, one of Milan's most iconic cafes. Close by sits the LVMH-owned Caffe Cova, which the Paris-based conglomerate purchased last year. And now, Chanel, whose owners collect high-end Bordeaux wineries, is entering the U.S. wine business with the purchase of a Napa Valley winery. Chanel joins LVMH, which has a significant Wine & Spirits division, as well as a number of other brands investing in wine.

As you may know, LVMH acquired the Clos des Lambrays Burgundy vineyard in April 2014, the latest in a consistent string of investments in various wine companies for a few decades now, including Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau d’Yquem, as part of its Estates & Wines division, which was formed after the company merged with champagne giant Moët Hennessy in 1987. As a result of the merger, LVMH acquired a dozen major brands, including Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Pérignon and Krug, as well as Hennessy cognac and Chateau d’Yquem.

Similarly, Salvatore Ferragamo and Roberto Cavalli have financial stakes in vineyards producing wine for retail. Lastly, in 2013, Artemis SA, the Pinault family holding company that controls luxury conglomerate Kering (parent to Balenciaga, Gucci, Saint Laurent, etc.) bought into the Araujo Estate Wines in Napa Valley, adding it to the roster of vineyards it owns, including Château Latour in Bordeaux, Domaine d'Eugénie in Burgundy and Château Grillet in the Rhône Valley.