NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 16: A model walks the runway at the Rodarte Fall 2010 Fashion Show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at 522 West 21st Street on February 16, 2010 in New York, New York. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
Though both camps have stressed that there is no such deal in the making, WWD reported today that there had in fact been on-off talks about a potential acquisition since Rodarte's Fall 2010 show last spring, during which Pierre-Yves Roussel, the CEO of LVMH's fashion division, was seated in the front row. While no one from Rodarte nor LVMH has commented on the most recent rounds of speculations, should Roussel be at the Mulleavy sisters' show again next month, rumors will certainly hit a fever pitch.
Should LVMH invest in Rodarte, a cult-brand better-known for its artistic leanings than its commercial profitability, the two would make rather strange bedfellows. Sisters Laura and Kate Mulleavy have been lauded left and right for their irreplicable designs, from their loyal celebrity fan base to institutions such as the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and the CFDA, from which they earned the Womenswear Designer of the Year award last year.
For its part, LVMH has seemed more concerned with maintaining its portfolio of luxury brands of late—and not just in fashion, but amongst its other investments as well (including wine and spirits, perfume and cosmetics and jewelry and watches). It's most recent fashion acquisition was the brand Edun last year, which despite not having the same kind of heritage cachet as some of LVMH's other properties, gave the impression of being a trophy purchase for its earth-friendly slant and its high-profile owners (Bono and wife Ali Hewson).
While LVMH also owns labels such as Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs, both of which are in fact more sportswear-driven than luxury brands, both also have a higher commercial viability than Rodarte, which WWD cited as having estimated annual earnings of less than $2 million.
Just as LVMH's purchase of Rodarte seems like an uncharacteristic business move—but a possibility nonetheless—this also raises questions about the future of Rodarte, and its visionary designers' artistic freedom if such a deal does occur.