LONDON, United Kingdom — Chinese heiress-turned-investor Wendy Yu has acquired a minority stake in London-based womenswear label Mary Kantrantzou. The investment was made in October 2017 via Yu Capital, a division of Hong Kong-based Yu Holdings, of which Wendy Yu is the founder and chief executive. The move is part of Yu’s wider plan to act as bridge for Western brands targeting China's consumers. The terms of the transaction were undisclosed.
Yu was joined by additional investors whose identities were undisclosed. “It’s the first time that we are opening our business to a friends and family round. Our intention is to grow the business internationally across different regions and product categories, before raising capital from an institutional investor,” said Katrantzou. “Wendy has been key to lining up partnerships in China to support the expansion of our offering and presence.”
“China is a very important market for us and one of the reasons we felt Wendy would be instrumental in growing the brand’s presence in the region,” continued Katrantzou. “Our ambition is to grow Mary Katrantzou’s presence and diversify our structure, both in terms of product and price point. It is something that will coincide with a focus on creating opportunities to connect directly with our customers.”
Yu will not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the Mary Katrantzou business, but hopes to add value by “solidifying Mary’s unique position in the market and supporting her growth, as well as helping her brand navigate and become more established in the Chinese market, especially among young Millennials.”
“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. “My role will be helping with strategy, introductions and special projects in the cities I see as being the most valuable to the brand, such as Hong Kong and Shanghai.”
Having founded her namesake brand in 2008, Mary Katrantzou quickly garnered industry acclaim and a cult following for her signature trompe l’oeil prints and structured silhouettes. Since launch, the Central Saint Martins graduate has, on average, doubled revenues each year to more than $15 million in 2014, without any significant external investment.
Born in Zhejiang in eastern China, Yu is the daughter of Chinese business magnate Jingyuan Yu, who founded the Mengian Group, Asia’s largest wooden door manufacturer. She launched Yu Capital last year, with a focus on the fashion and technology sectors, and has set aside $20 million for investment in emerging businesses in 2018. Her other fashion-related investments include Fashion Concierge, the fashion recognition app formerly known as Asap54, and sustainable fashion brand Bottletop.
Yu joins a growing list of investors who are focused on the potential of the Chinese market. On Friday, British designer Hussein Chalayan sold a 20 percent stake in his business to Centricus, the global investment firm founded by Dalinc Ariburnu and Nizar Al-Bassam, with a view to expand in China. “Even though the Chalayan brand is well known in certain parts of Asia, there has been no penetration yet into China,” Ariburnu told the Financial Times, noting that Chalayan’s expansion “will be in the form of both e-commerce and local presence in big cities.”
“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,” Yu continued.
Indeed, China’s shoppers are currently the biggest spenders worldwide on luxury products, making up 32 percent of the 262 billion euros ($308 billion) global market last year, according to Bain & Company. Sales of luxury goods in China hit 142 billion RMB ($22.07 billion) in 2017, up around 20 percent from the year before, marking the sharpest growth since 2011, when luxury sales started to be hit by slower economic growth and a fierce crackdown on corruption.
“Mary Katrantzou has so much potential, not just in fashion, but also as a lifestyle brand,” said Yu. “In the next 10 to 20 years, I believe that Mary Katrantzou can become a global lifestyle brand.”