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Tomorrow Acquires Majority Stake in Martine Rose Label

In a first for the London-based showroom-turned-brand accelerator, the equity investment also includes a share swap, giving Martine Rose an undisclosed stake in the Tomorrow business.
Model walk the runway at the Martine Rose show during London Fashion Week Men's June 2018. Getty Images.
Tomorrow has acquired a majority stake in menswear label Martine Rose, which has attracted a distinct and dedicated fan base. Getty Images.

Menswear designer Martine Rose is readying for her next act, enlisting showroom-turned-brand accelerator Tomorrow to help her navigate the next stage of her label’s growth.

Tomorrow has acquired a 60 percent stake in the emerging London-based label founded by the Jamaican-British designer in 2007. The equity investment also includes a share swap, giving Martine Rose an undisclosed equity stake in the Tomorrow business. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The partnership will allow Rose to invest in building out her London-based studio team, developing new product categories beyond ready-to-wear and growing the brand’s footprint globally.

Tomorrow offers its labels shared services across key business segments like product development, manufacturing, sales and distribution. Its portfolio includes cult names like A-Cold-Wall, Coperni, Colville and Charles Jeffrey, among others. It’s part of a wave of brand platforms pioneering a new model for growing high-potential labels in a fashion landscape where operating independently is becoming increasingly challenging.

Luca Benini’s Slam Jam, New Guards Group and Dover Street Market Paris have developed similar strategies. While the specifics of each platform’s model varies — Tomorrow, for example, takes equity stakes in the brands it supports, while others, like DSM Paris, take a commission on sales — the common idea is to enable small brands to flourish in a market that is more complex and competitive than ever.

Tomorrow sees pooling resources among a collective of relatively small, niche fashion businesses with authentic followings as a significant opportunity. Each label can focus its own resources on creative design and community building, while, on the business operations side, leveraging the economies of scale that a collective affords them.

“We’re not here to identify the next billion-dollar business,” said Tomorrow co-founder and chief executive Stefano Martinetto. “We firmly don’t believe the world needs another billion-dollar brand. But we think the world might want a very well-curated portfolio of insurgent brands, which…altogether, they might form something which is larger and interesting.”

In the past, Tomorrow’s investments have tended to focus on young labels and startups that have a strong creative talent at the helm and have attracted a distinct and dedicated fan base. While the Martine Rose brand is more than a decade old, the spirit of the label fits the profile.

Known for its blend of streetwear and suiting, exaggerated silhouettes and off-beat show concepts, Martine Rose has garnered a cult following over the years, with its namesake designer helping to shape the contemporary menswear space. A former consultant to Balenciaga’s menswear design team, Rose’s designs are stocked at retailers from MatchesFashion and Dover Street Market to Ssense and Machine-A. She has also consulted for Nike, working with the sportswear giant on product collaborations.

“She’s a creative director, an independent founder, a creative entertainer and she has a strong focus on our community and uncompromising work ethic and uncompromising DNA,” said Martinetto.

The share swap deal structure with Martine Rose is the first of its kind for Tomorrow. The set-up, however, reflects Tomorrow’s broader company ethos of growing its own business in partnership with the talents it supports while allowing them to maintain creative independence. More traditional deals between larger groups and smaller brands can sometimes disproportionately benefit one party versus the other, said Martinetto. Smaller fashion brand’s don’t necessarily get to share in the broader successes of the larger parent. Should the partnership not work out, the loss can be disproportionately felt by a smaller brand than a large group.

“We spotted the possible misalignment of interest between parties,” said Martinetto. “It really felt interesting and good and decent to have a new view of how a platform, and the creators who are supporting the platform, are sharing the values and the upsides.”

For Rose, her business had reached a point where it needed a more established operational infrastructure to support consumer demand, said Zach Duane, managing partner at ABLT Group Limited, who advised Martine Rose on the deal and will become a non-executive board director at the brand. Sales of the brands’ Spring/Summer 2022 collection doubled compared with the equivalent season prior to the pandemic, while demand from the China market has ramped up, he said.

“Lots of small companies in fashion don’t partner for the operating side, they think the best idea is just to raise capital. There are just too many examples, particularly in the UK, of that not working,” said Duane.

Despite the new partnership, neither Tomorrow nor Martine Rose has any desire for the brand to follow an aggressive expansion plan. Rather than worrying about the size of the business, it’s more important to focus on “how to stay relevant, how to stay truthful and honest to your community, how not to compromise [your brand DNA] for a quick earning opportunity,” said Martinetto. That’s what consumers today want, he added.

“You can put all the algorithms you want,” Martinetto said. “But unless there is the heart of the creative director — and the people around the creative director are understanding that [vision] — it just doesn’t work. The consumer smells it.”

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