Des Phemmes Sells Minority Stake, Gears Up to Product and Distribution Expansion

MILAN — Des Phemmes is ready to scale up business with the help of a new business partner.

Italian manufacturing company Olmar and Mirta SpA acquired a minority stake in Oasi Srl, the parent company of the hip brand launched by Salvo Rizza in 2019, WWD has learned.

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While the value of the operation was not disclosed, Olmar and Mirta is to control 45 percent of the company. A 10-year licensing agreement adds to the deal, with Olmar and Mirta charged to support Des Phemmes both in terms of production and distribution.

Founded in 1997 by Giambattista Tirelli and generating a turnover of about 30 million euros, the company also holds the license of the Uma Wang brand, in addition to owning the Gentryportofino and Fisico labels.

Olmar and Mirta is best known for being a longtime business partner of Rick Owens. It had been the licensee of the brand from 2001 to 2015, when a new firm dubbed Owenscorp Italia SpA was established under the umbrella of Owenscorp France to optimize the management of the label.

In this new operation, Tirelli aims to support Des Phemmes in expanding the brand’s product assortment and global distribution.

“An emerging brand inevitably needs that production and distribution push to really make a significant jump and scale up business,” said Rizza to WWD, hinting that he went separate ways from his former business partner in February due to a misalignment of visions.

“How can I produce an ever-increasing amount of clothes and answer to the growing demand from the market? I needed someone who could support these volumes, and Olmar and Mirta has a giant production site and an extremely structured company. It also works with different product categories — an asset that will enable me to expand collections,” continued Rizza.

Case in point, Rizza teased that his next collection will already see the introduction of beachwear, as well as a strong focus on denim and knitwear. “To be able to have the tools to embrace different categories will eventually empower me to express my vision with more strength. For example, I’ve always wanted to deep-dive into knitwear but didn’t have the proper means to do it, so it has been pretty basic until now,” said the designer.

Des Phemmes founder Salvo Rizza.

Des Phemmes founder Salvo Rizza.

Tirelli echoed that his company is always on the lookout for new projects “in which we can succeed in giving structure as well as productive, organizational and distribution weight to talented designers that otherwise would suffer the infinite difficulties of this sector.”

The entrepreneur recalled meeting Rizza by chance over the summer thanks to a common friend and the way the brand immediately caught his attention, not only for its fashion proposition and affinities to his company but also for being already well-positioned at key wholesalers in the U.S. Tirelli now looks to leverage his firm’s own global connections worldwide to further solidify Des Phemmes in the market and build the brand awareness in Europe.

Last year marked a turning point for Des Phemmes Stateside as it landed at marquee retailers, including Moda Operandi, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.

In the U.S., Des Phemmes has 20 points of sale across brick-and-mortar and online channels, out of the 80 it counts globally. Stockists include LuisaViaRoma, Harvey Nichols and Lane Crawford Hong Kong. Yet sales generated in the U.S. now account for 60 percent of the young label’s total turnover, which reached 2 million euros this year.

To further boost its brand awareness locally, Des Phemmes tapped an agency in Los Angeles that has stepped up its game in terms of celebrity placements. Most recently, Rizza’s creations were donned by the likes of Eva Longoria, Gwen Stefani and Anne Hathaway, who opted for Des Phemmes crystal-embellished white looks both for her appearance at “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” last week and to arrive at the “Live With Kelly and Mark” show last month.

THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 1887 -- Pictured: Actress Anne Hathaway arrives on Friday, December 8, 2023 -- (Photo by: Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images)

Actress Anne Hathaway arriving at “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” wearing a Des Phemmes look.

Rizza highlighted that this kind of visibility is beneficial in establishing an even more direct engagement with customers and that resonates in Europe, too. Underscoring that expansion in Europe is top priority for the brand’s new course, Rizza said that the markets showing most potential are France and the U.K.

The strategy is to continue to forge ties with multibrand retailers and key department stores, launching also a series of pop-ups. A second phase of the distribution plan will expand the reach to Middle East and Asia, where Des Phemmes is already present at cherry-picked stockists.

Tirelli stressed that both parties are eager to take action and start the new course right away. “This is also proved by the decision to have sales campaigns already in January to coincide with Milan Men’s Fashion Week, without waiting for the women’s one at the end of February, and involving different showrooms in the process, our corporate one in Milan as well as multibrand ones,” said the entrepreneur, who expects the brand to reach 100 points of sale in a couple of seasons.

Des Phemmes RTW Spring 2024

Des Phemmes RTW Spring 2024

Collections will also contribute to strengthen ties with retailers. In addition to the assortment’s expansion, Rizza aims to flank the two seasonal main collections with two midseason exclusive capsule drops developed in partnership with retailers. Rizza first tested the format last year with a Moda Operandi tie-up, and said the idea of differentiating product offering to avoid overlaps will inform future e-commerce launch plans.

There is also a plan to launch accessories, and in the longer term, menswear.

“Many items in my collections come from my own wardrobe, so the idea of launching menswear has always been there, and the demand from the market too, but I prefer to take baby steps and consolidate the brand awareness first,” said Rizza. Ditto for requests to develop a mini-me line, which the designer pushed back for an ever more distant future.

Another dream put on hold is to stage a fashion show in Milan, “which is my city but it doesn’t make it easy to accomplish such a thing,” said Rizza. He reiterated the importance of solidifying the brand to secure a competitive slot in the Milan Fashion Week schedule, which “now wouldn’t be possible.”

Des Phemmes RTW Fall 2023

Des Phemmes RTW Fall 2023

Meanwhile, Des Phemmes is growing and reaching an increasingly wider demographic, addressing women aged 20 to 50 with its ‘90s aesthetic of unfussy silhouettes heavy on sizzling embellishments and tie-dye.

“That’s so surprising: at the beginning I thought the brand could resonate only with young customers,” admitted Rizza, who also said he’s fond of seeing how each customer styles his pieces in a different way.

The latest collection he presented in September was a summery affair inspired by his own time spent on the Sicilian island of Stromboli. A redux of his signature attires, the spring 2024 lineup included crystal- and sequin-embellished bras paired with sheer pencil skirts, also covered in dazzling hibiscus patterns; see-through slipdresses layered over tie-dyed pajama pants, and not-so-basic T-shirts coming with crystal-dotted sarongs.

Des Phemmes RTW Spring 2024

Des Phemmes RTW Spring 2024

Rizza’s bold and feminine vision has been influenced by his professional beginnings at Giambattista Valli in Paris, which he joined after graduating in fashion design from Milan’s Istituto Marangoni in 2011.

Starting as an intern in the design team, he climbed the ranks over the span of five years to oversee ready-to-wear and haute couture collections. Then Rizza returned to Milan to freelance for brands including Agnona, Max Mara and Emilio Pucci, before eventually launching his brand in 2019.

“But to be honest, Des Phemmes is not strictly linked to fashion,” he said. “Of course I want the brand to grow and dream of a fashion show, but the ultimate mission is to become more an incubator of female talents — from writers to artists — supporting them and amplifying their work,” said Rizza, listing the all-female team of collaborators currently helping him on the creative side.

Des Phemmes RTW Spring 2023

Des Phemmes RTW Spring 2023

“Des Phemmes was born under the influence of the women in my life, so I’ve always felt the duty of giving back. Otherwise, if this company sticks to mere clothes, it’s all a little bit fruitless, don’t you think?” he said.

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