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USC founders plot international Fashion Rocks concept

Angus Morrison and David Douglas, the original founders of USC, are understood to have created a spin-off premium branded fashion concept dubbed the new “Wade Smith or Selfridges” from the Fashion Rocks event they own.

The duo, who left their non-executive directorships of USC in recent weeks, have begun touting for brand support for the new concept and are thought to be in talks with property agents about several units, including sites in Glasgow, Manchester and London.

Morrison, who is leading the project, is also understood to be in talks with etail platform providers about creating a transactional website for Fashion Rocks. Online will form a key plank of astrategy that will include an international roll-out.

Fashion Rocks launched in 2003 as part of an initiative to raise money for charity the Prince’s Trust. The concept was to bring together big-name designer catwalks with live music performances - in fusions such as Armani and Beyoncé, Lily Allen and Chanel, and Mariah Carey and Versace - in high-profile cities such as London, Miami and Rio de Janeiro. Morrison and Douglas were brought into the business in the mid-2000s and plan to harness its global branding and PR power through the new etail format and retail chain.

The pair, who also hold a stake in streetwear brand Gio-Goi, believe the Fashion Rocks retail concept could be rolled out internationally, with stores opening in existing and future event locations such as Rio de Janeiro and Singapore.

The chain is likely to stock premium and designer brands such as those that have featured as part of previous events. Sources said a second spin-off concept was also being planned, which would focus on denim brands such as G-Star and Diesel. A source said: “The premium core concept would be the most important focus, but they do think there is opportunity to link a denim offer in with that.”

Morrison and Douglas, who netted around £27m when they offloaded young fashion chain USC, which they founded together, to Sir Tom Hunter in 2004, are understood to have already held talks with several private equity and venture capitalist firms about financing the roll-out. A source close to the financing said: “Interest has been really strong. The difference is that with this retail concept comes a big PR and media event machine, which is very attractive.”

There is no timescale for the launch and sources said there were still “balls in the air” in terms of sites and suppliers. However a 20,000 sq ft to 25,000 sq ft unit is thought to have been identified as a potential target on Glasgow’s Buchanan Street.

The financial source said: “They are looking at how best to get the biggest mass volume the quickest to propel Fashion Rocks forward. It’s complicated as so many things hinge on each other.”

Until recently, Douglas had been leading the revival of USC, having been brought back into the business by Hunter as a non-executive director following a pre-pack administration in December 2008. Douglas had taken charge of buying. Morrison too has resigned as a non-executive director.

A spokesman for Hunter said: “Angus and David have done a great job for us over the past year on buying strategy and as they did it became very clear we needed more, not less, resource on this… Clearly with Gio-Goi to run, and many other interests, that was a challenge, so we’ve resourced up on buying teams to allow them to seamlessly exit the business. They remain key contacts… and Gio-Goi a core brand for USC.”

He declined to comment on rumours that the duo had tried to buy back USC from Hunter last month.

Morrison and Douglas could not be reached as Drapers went to press.

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