French luxury label LV marries Aussie RM


Iconic R>M> Williams, bushman who became millionnaire

Australian bush outfitter R.M. Williams has pulled off a dream deal. French fashion house Louis Vuitton has bought just under 50 per cent of its iconic designs tailored for stylish “colts and fillies”.
Rather than rue the French buy-up of a famous national label R.M. Williams chef    Ken Cowley says he hopes his new French partners will be able to help the high profile local label to increase its market share overseas, particularly Asia.

There is every chance this will happen when one considers the fortunes of luxury goods label LV.

Louis Vuitton, which accounts for half of luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton operating profit, generates €7.4 billion ($9.69 billion) in annual sales, estimates Bernstein Research. That is almost as much as Prada , Hermès International and Burberry Group combined.

Against such a remarkable luxury-brand giant, Australian bushman Reginald Murray Williams, was a humble home-grown hero who founded his famous clothing and footwear manufacturing company to capture Australia’s outback spirit. This was a far cry from the fashion labels under the LVMH label including Christian Dior, Tag heuer, Bulgari, Moet & Chandon and Hennessy. Its chairman and chief executive is none other than Europe’s richest man, Bernard Arnault.

Reg was born at Belalie North near Jamestown, in South Australia and rose from swagman, to a millionaire entrepeneur. Widely known as just ‘R.M.’, he was bred in a pioneering settler family working and training horses.  R.M. had many adventures in Australia’s rugged outback as a bushman. He became an outback icon for creating an Australian style of bushwear recognised world wide and left an enduring contribution to the Australian identity when he died in 2003. The company he founded enjoys annual sales of around $100 million.

On announcing the purchase of a 49.9 per cent share by an affiliate of global luxury goods brand Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH),  R.M. Williams chairman Ken Cowley, whose family owns the remaining 50.1 per cent controlling stake, says the new part-owner has agreed that the company will continue to manufacture its products.

The Cowley family – headed by the former News Ltd CEO – took over full ownership of the brand when Reginald (R.M.) Williams died in 2003. Cowley bought out fellow shareholder Kerry Stokes and privatised the company.

R.M. Williams already exports to 15 countries, has stores in London and New York and is carried by 900 retailers around the world, but Cowley says he hopes LVMH will help take the brand to the next level.

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