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Yu Holdings acquires minority stake in Mary Katrantzou ahead of push into China

By Vivian Hendriksz

23 Jan 2018


London - Wendy Yu, the Chinese heiress turned investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist, has acquired a minority stake in designer fashion label Mary Katrantzou ahead of plans to expand the London-based brand in China.

The investment in Mary Katrantzou was made through Yu's investment vehicle Yu Capital, the London-based investment arm of Yu Holdings of which Wendy Yu is the founder and chief executive officer of. The move is part of Yu's wider strategy of investing in Western designer brands and helping them succeed overseas in China. The terms of the deal were undisclosed. Other investors also invested in the brand, but their identities remain undisclosed.

Prior to investing in Mary Katrantzou, Yu and the Greek-born designer took the time to get to know each other on a business and personal level. Katrantzou, who is best known for her innovative prints and bold use of colour, aims to surround herself and her brand with "entrepreneurial" and "visionary" women as the brand accelerates its international growth. "In considering the future growth of the brand, I wanted to surround myself with visionary and entrepreneurial women, who not only inspire me to design but who I trust and respect for their business acumen," said Katrantzou in a statement on the investment.

Mary Katrantzou eyes up growth potential in China following investment from Wendy Yu

"It's very exciting to enter our 10th year anniversary with a board of incredible women advisors, who are shaping the industry in their own right and will be helping us shape our future and reach our full potential. Wendy is an extraordinary person with a pragmatic and forward-looking vision, who is a close friend as well as an ambassador for the brand," added Katrantzou. China, in particular, has been earmarked as an important market for the designer label and Yu's experience in the Chinese fashion sector will help position the brand within the market.

"Mary Katrantzou has a unique aesthetic and has demonstrated impressive creative versatility and commercial success that we believe has the potential to evolve into a significant business in the global luxury fashion market," said Yu. "Furthermore, I believe her business shows strong promise for success in the Chinese market." Although Yu will not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the Mary Katrantzou label, she will help support the brand's growth and help the designer navigate the Chinese market.

The investment comes as Mary Katrantzou's marks its ten-year anniversary with its first retrospective "Mary, Queen of Prints" at the Dallas Contemporary museum in Texas. The Greek-born designer first founded her namesake brand in 2008 following her famous graduation show, which featured her now-iconic trompe l’oeil prints and structured silhouettes. Since the launch of her brand, Katrantzou has managed to steadily grow her brand without the aid of any external investment and is currently sold at more than 100 premium stockists around the globe, including China.

At the moment Katrantzou's collections are sold at Lane Crawford and Joyce stores in Hong Kong, but Yu sees even larger potential for Mary Katrantzou's growth in China. "I will travel to China with Mary this spring to personally activate her presence in the market, co-host a couple of events and explore long-term commercial opportunities," said Yu to Business of Fashion. Yu will also help establish an e-commerce presence for the brand in China, as she believes selling online is key for Mary Katrantzou's growth in the country following her successful collaborations with Topshop and Adidas.

"Luxury e-commerce is booming in China as the Millennial customer goes online seeking new and exciting brands. We need to engage with this audience and build awareness on social media, which is how Chinese Millennials interact with the world," added Yu, who foresees the brand developing into a global lifestyle brand within the next 10 to 20 years. Yu, who is the daughter of Chineses business magnate and founder of Asia's largest wooden door manufacturer Jingyuan Yu, founded Yu Captial in 2017 with the aim of investing in fashion and technology.

The 27-year old entrepreneur has set aside 20 million USD for investing in emerging businesses in 2018 after previously investing in Bottletop, a sustainable fashion brand, and Fashion Concierge (previously known as ASAP 54), the fashion and beauty sourcing app. She joins a growing list of investors tapping into the growing potential offered by the Chinese market. British designer Hussein Chalayan recently sold a 20 percent stake in his business to global investment firm Centricus and investor Adrian Cheng launched a new fund under the name C Ventures last year which links Chinese investors with Western fashion and retail brand. Since then Cheng has taken stakes in Not Just a Label, Finery and Moda Operandi through C Ventures and other investment firms.

Photo credits: Courtesy of Wendy Yu and Mary Katrantzou, SS18, Catwalkpictures

Mary Katrantzou
Wendy Yu
Yu Capital