Gucci takeover of Yves Saint Laurent

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The Independent Online
AFTER MONTHS of speculation, Gucci, the fashion label synonymous with luxury and glamour, announced yesterday that it had finally snapped up Yves Saint Laurent, one of the most prized fashion labels.

Gucci turned into a major multi-brand luxury goods giant overnight with the acquisition of Sanofi Beaute, which owns Yves Saint Laurent, for a total consideration of about $1bn. Sanofi Beaute is a luxury-goods group that controls the Yves Saint Laurent fashion, cosmetics and perfume businesses, as well as Roger & Gallet and the perfume licences for Van Cleef & Arpels, Oscar de la Renta, Fendi and Krizia.

This acquisition brings Yves Saint Laurent under the ownership and control of Domenico de Sole, Gucci's president and chief executive officer, and Tom Ford, Gucci's creative director. The two men, who transformed the fortunes of Gucci from a practically bankrupt company into a fashion legend, intend to do the same for Yves Saint Laurent by using Gucci's expertise to develop the fragrance side of the business and in particular YSL's leather accessories. "Yves Saint Laurent is a great brand, perhaps the greatest, and this acquisition will allow us to maximise its potential," said Mr Ford.

Gucci is quick to point out that its strategy for the YSL brand is consistent with the vision initiated by Yves Saint Laurent and his long-term business partner Pierre Berge.

The house of Yves Saint Laurent was opened in 1962. Since then the designer has reinvented the way modern women dress and is acknowledged as the most influential designer of the later part of this century. In 1966 he created `le smoking', a tuxedo jacket that relieved women of the frills of traditional eveningwear.

That same year he opened a string of Rive Gauche ready-to-wear boutiques and became the first of his kind to offer clothes in a more egalitarian environment than that of the haute couture atelier. Later that decade came the classic safari jacket, followed by the blazer and women's trouser suits.

For the past two seasons Saint Laurent himself has not designed the ready- to-wear collection, leaving this weighty task to the young designer Alber Elbaz. But after the cool reception by the fashion press of Mr Elbaz's collections, there has been much speculation on the subject of his possible successor on the world's most prestigious ready-to-wear label.

The whispers are reaching deafening pitch that Tom Ford himself will take over the design helm at Saint Laurent. The company said yesterday that no decision had yet been made.

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