Young Italian shoe brand Moretti gets private equity backing

PARIS Fri Dec 6, 2013 8:41am EST

PARIS Dec 6 (Reuters) - Italian luxury shoemaker Alberto Moretti, known for his velvet slip-ons and stilettos made with 24-carat gold, has secured backing from a newly-formed private equity firm in the latest deal involving a promising young designer.

Investors and luxury goods firms are increasingly taking bets on young brands as consumers become more sophisticated, particularly in emerging markets, and appetite for ubiquitous mega brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton wanes.

Luxury industry leader LVMH recently invested in two fledgling British fashion brands J.W. Anderson and Nicholas Kirkwood, while rival Gucci-owner Kering took a stake in young French-American designer Altuzarra.

Alberto Moretti, 38, comes from the Moretti family whose Tuscan factories have been making shoes for several generations and still work for brands including Salvatore Ferragamo , Gucci, Prada and sister label Church's.

His company received attention this year by selling shoes made with 24-carat gold in a Dubai mall for $4,800, tapping into one of the biggest markets for luxury shoes in the world.

Middle Eastern buyers are estimated to have spent 20 percent of their luxury budget on shoes in 2012, according to analysts.

The world shoe market rose to $17 billion from $15 billion in the past year and, according to consultancy Bain & Co, shoes are one of the fastest-growing segments in the luxury industry.

Alberto Moretti, who used to design for Car Shoe, also part of Prada, started his own brand three years ago and now sells his creations in some 200 stores, including Harrods in London, Barney's in New York and his own shop in St Tropez, France.

He also designed an exclusive footwear line for the Italia Independent brand in partnership with his friend Lapo Elkann, the brother of Fiat Chairman John Elkann and an heir to Italy's biggest industrial dynasty.

Details of the Moretti transaction were not published but his company is estimated to make annual revenue of just under 10 million euros ($13.7 million).

The deal is the first for EMCap, a private equity firm specialised in financing the expansion of Western high-end consumer goods firms overseas, particularly in emerging markets.

WELL CONNECTED

"The Alberto Moretti brand has a lot of potential, particularly in the Middle East, South East Asia and Russia," said EMCap partner Alexandre Hamaide, who spearheaded the deal.

EMCap partners also include Jean-Fabrice Copé, who used to work for investment firms KKR in China and Wendel and is the brother of former French budget minister Jean-Francois Copé.

There is also Eric Lesieur who used to work at private equity firm Apax Partners and was former secretary general of private French spectacles maker Alain Afflelou, and Victor Gavrilov, formerly from Boston Consulting Group in Paris.

EMCap will own around 40 percent of Alberto Moretti together with Italian investment fund GenCap while Alberto and his two brothers will own around 60 percent of the company.

The designer plans to open a shop in Abu Dhabi in the next few weeks and later in Milan, Jakarta and Dubai.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Find your dream retirement town

Florida? Hawaii? Reuters has teamed up with Zillow to give you the power to customize a list of your best places to retire.  Video | Full Article