It was with sadness but no great shock that I learned of Style Group Brands’ collapse into administration at the end of last week.
One of the very first stories I wrote when I joined Drapers in 2014 was that Jacques Vert Group – as the company was then known – was axing two of its brands: Minuet Petite and Alexon. The latter had been in existence for 85 years.
Jacques Vert Group was formed in 2012 through the merger of Jacques Vert and Irisa, two womenswear businesses owned by private equity firm Sun European Partners. At the time there were 11 brands in its combined portfolio. When Teresa Tideman joined as CEO in March 2013, there were nine. The early casualties were casualwear brand Lazy Lu and Irisa’s plus-size fascia Ann Harvey, which was later relaunched by Bonmarché.
Tideman continued the much-needed rationalisation, making the Jacques Vert Group offer clearer. But it wasn’t enough to offset some bad decisions – including an ill-fated attempt to launch Planet as a premium brand in the US – and the challenging conditions in mainstream womenswear.
Over the past three years, I have watched as its portfolio shrank to just four brands – Jacques Vert, Precis Petite, Eastex and Dash – and three CEOs tried to turn it around – Tideman, then Tim Davies and, most recently, Shaun Wills. Last September, Wills rebranded the company as Style Group Brands, but so far he has been unable to reverse its fortunes.
The good news is that most concessions and stores have been saved, as the company was bought in a pre-pack deal by a subsidiary of Calvetron Style Holdings, whose backers include Harold Tillman.
It is not an easy time to be in the mainstream womenswear market – as underlined by the administration of German stalwart Basler, also last week. The hope now is that, with a new injection of funds and a streamlined portfolio, Style Group Brands will be able to expand internationally and grow its online sales – while, crucially, keeping its costs low and paying its suppliers.
Finally, our thoughts go out to those affected by the terrorist attack in London last weekend. We take comfort from the display of solidarity in the days that followed, and hope everyone stays safe at this troubling time.