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Phase Eight and Whistles owner buys Damsel in a Dress

South African retailer The Foschini Group (TFG) has scooped up another UK business in the form of womenswear brand Damsel in a Dress.

It marks the third major UK acquisition for TFG in the last two years, following Phase Eight and Whistles.

Victoria Snepp, previously senior womenswear buyer at Phase Eight, will become creative director of Damsel in a Dress and lead the existing team of 12.

Phase Eight brand director Judith Bremner will oversee its strategic direction while retaining her existing role. The brand’s founders have left the business.

Drapers understands the website is being revamped and will relaunch imminently, and the plan is to open Damsel in a Dress stores.

The mid-market fashion brand was launched in 2010 by Alison Mansell, Amanda Seabourne and Marshall Doctors. The Hargreaves family, which owns Matalan, Wolsey, Nicole Farhi and Fenn Wright Manson among other fashion firms, bought a 50% stake in Damsel in a Dress in 2013.

Damsel in a Dress had sales of over £7m in 2016, and is stocked in John Lewis and Arnotts as well as online with John Lewis, House of Fraser and at

“We see significant opportunity to develop the Damsel in a Dress brand in the UK and internationally, leveraging the network and relationships established within Phase Eight and Whistles,” explained Lee Harlow, managing director of The Foschini Group’s UK holding company TFG London.

The Foschini Group, which is based in South Africa, agreed in January 2015 to acquire 85% of Poppy Holdco, which trades as Phase Eight, from private equity firm TowerBrook. The deal valued Phase Eight at £238m.

The South African retailer went on to acquire a substantial majority shareholding in Whistles for an undisclosed sum last March.

Ben Barnett, chief executive of Phase Eight and TFG London, and chairman of Whistles, said: “We continue to see significant opportunities for both organic and acquisitive growth in the UK market.”


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