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Philipe Camperio talks about how ChimHaeres came to launch, its strategy and ambitions

Translated by
May 30, 2023

The French-Italian businessman Philippe Camperio, who is responsible for the revival of Borsalino, tells FashionNetwork.com about his strategy for the ChimHaeres holding company, a new luxury pole with assets under management of 75 million euros. He founded the company with the Emirati investment company Chimera and currently holds the position of managing director. He tells us about his plans for, from a stock market listing by 2027-2028 to the revival of the historic Vionnet fashion house, which has just joined ChimHaeres.

Philippe Camperio - ChimHaeres

FashionNetwork.com: How did you get into the fashion world?

Philippe Camperio: I used to work in mergers and acquisitions and private equity as a consultant. I co-founded an investment boutique in Geneva, which in twenty years completed 250 transactions worth €2.5 billion on behalf of its clients. In 2013, with my partners, we wanted to make equity investments ourselves and bought seven companies in various sectors in Geneva. Then in 2015, when the opportunity arose to buy Borsalino, I decided to focus on lifestyle.

FNW: So you specialised in luxury?

PC: Yes. Through my personal holding company Haeres Capital, which held several stakes like Borsalino since 2018, the historic Swiss stocking and pantyhose brand Fogal, which I sold in 2019, and a five-star real estate project on the Côte d'Azur, we have developed with my team a certain expertise and knowledge of the luxury market. We understand it and believe we have the tools to master it. Having often been approached by brands looking for investors, after the Covid pandemic, we put together a business model. 

FNW: What kind of business model have you put in place?

PC: The idea is to identify heritage brands that are either in a succession phase, need to develop their turnover to reach a certain profitability, or are positioned in the market in an undervalued way because they are under-managed. Our objective was to target opportunities and buy majority stakes, where we would syndicate a minority stake via co-investors, so through one-off deals. Once an acquisition is finalised, we deploy our teams by pooling resources. This allows companies to benefit from high-level skills at a fraction of the cost.

FNW: And then you launched the ChimHaeres luxury cluster. How did the project come about?

PC: In March 2022, Chimera and Haeres Capital came together. Chimera is an investment pocket of the Royal Group, an Abu Dhabi private equity fund that wanted to develop a luxury investment strategy. What attracted them to us was that we already had experience with Borsalino and Fogal, a pipeline of deals and an existing management team made up of big names, such as Antonella di Pietro, who has worked for Trussardi and Tod's, Alberto Nathansohn, former finance director of Bulgari and Benetton, Giacomo Santucci, who worked for Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, as well as Jérôme Macario, former financial and operational director of Brioni with fifteen years in management control at Kering. So, in fact, we bought them the heavyweights they needed to start.

FNW: How did the deal come about?

PC: We worked together for a year and the result was this joint venture called ChimHaeres. Haeres Capital contributed its stake in Borsalino and all the brands we had under option. Chimera matched the value of the investments in cash. 75 million, which is the weight of all our holdings. Today, 18 people make up our teams which are spread between Milan, Abu Dhabi, Geneva and Luxembourg. Beyond the financial contribution, Chimera brings a strategic vision, a real added value.

The famous seamstress in 1923 - Madeleine Vionnet

FNW: An ambitious project...

PC: The big gamble was to launch the joint venture simultaneously and to announce three new acquisitions, in addition to the contribution of Borsalino, in order to be big enough on the market and have the credibility to go after other brands. It has been quite complex and intense. At present, we own four brands: 100% of Vionnet, 54% of Borsalino, the rest being held by a dozen shareholders, Fogal, which was bought out at 87.5%, and the Italian luxury coachbuilder Zagato, of which we took 70%, the family having kept the remaining 30%. In terms of consolidated turnover, the whole group is worth around forty million euros.

FNW: Where are you based?

PC: The holding's headquarters are in Abu Dhabi and the operational offices are in Geneva and Milan, where we have been located since the beginning of the year in new offices in Via della Spiga.

FNW: How did the takeover of Vionnet come about?
PC: I had been covering this company for four years, which was put into liquidation in 2018. We bought it from its former owner, Mrs Goga Ashkenazi. We bought all the intellectual property.

FNW: What are your plans for this historic house?

PC: The brand is currently operating on a confidential basis, but we are planning a new business model, which will be launched by the end of the year. Madeleine Vionnet was a real pioneer. If you take away the size of the company and the image, the name itself is as strong as Schiaparelli or Dior. We found an interview from 1921, where Madeleine Vionnet talked about sustainable development, women's liberation and announced that the fashion industry would become very polluting. These are the themes we want to tackle a century later, because they are so relevant to today's reality. We are in the process of setting up an absolutely revolutionary project. We are going to relaunch the house with an extremely disruptive business model. But we are in the midst of development. For the moment, we can't say more.

FNW: What is the approach of this new ChimHaeres luxury cluster?

PC: We are focused on all of Europe and Switzerland, and we are looking at all lifestyle sectors. Our goal is long-term ownership and proactive development, through our management platform, for each of the houses we acquire. We are financial entrepreneurs. We are not passive shareholders. On the contrary, we are involved in the companies without necessarily being invasive in the day-to-day management, i.e. we keep the management of everything that is financial, cash-flow and brand building, while the day-to-day management remains in the hands of each company. We only intervene on very specific points aimed at the long-term development of the brand. The huge advantage of being an open holding company, and not a mature investment fund, is that we have the ability to build shareholder value, maintaining the same long-term value creation strategy.

FNW: What is your objective?

PC: The objective is to build a diversified investment holding company in the different lifestyle industries with a risk diversification approach, but with a clear vision of what we can bring to our investments. Our investments are between 20 and 50 million, which is too small for large groups and too large for entrepreneurs and small private equity funds. We go where others cannot, will not or do not know how to go. What we are looking for are great stories, unique stories.

ChimHaeres holds 87,5% of Fogal - Fogal

FNW: Where do you stand today?

PC: We are looking for new targets, we already have three under analysis. We are in the due diligence phase. Three lifestyle brands, two of which are fashion related and one of which is home related. Two of them are Italian, one is based in London. Two of them have a very good heritage, one is owned by a very fashionable designer. We also have three or four other labels in the pipeline.

FNW: How are you going to fund yourself?

PC: We are putting together a bunch of opportunities and as soon as there are enough, we open the capital of ChimHaeres Holding to new investors, who will enter our current portfolio, and with their cash contribution, we will be able to finance new acquisitions. As we are not an investment fund, we also aim to list ChimHaeres on the stock exchange to obtain liquidity. To do this, we need a portfolio of a significant size. Of course, if someone presents us with an interesting offer for a portfolio company, we will study it, but we do not have an exit goal for each of our holdings. We are here to consolidate and build a group.

FNW: When and where do you plan to go public?

PC: We are aiming for a dual listing in Abu Dhabi and Milan, I would say by 2027-2028. You have to reach a critical size. If you're too small, no one is interested. For that, we need a portfolio of about eight to ten brands representing 500 million in assets. We're going to end the year with two more holdings, and then we're going to do maybe two more in 2024.

FNW: How do you plan to proceed with each of your brands?

PC: We're going to restructure, add management and give them new resources. We're giving them a financial process and methods. If they need it, we will give them an IT and human resources platform, develop their sales department, open up new markets. For the rest, the headquarters and the teams remain in place. Fogal is in Geneva, Vionnet and Zagato have their headquarters in Milan. We are in the luxury sector, so we attach the utmost importance to the quality of the product, with a justified price. We are also going to ensure rigorous cost control and, above all, implement a truly sustainable approach. This is absolutely essential. Today, this is no longer an option. It is not a selling point, it is a sine qua non of our operations. Even if it adds difficulty, costs and energy. For the time being, we will rely on our suppliers in terms of traceability and ethics.

FNW: In your opinion, how can a brand evolve in the current luxury market?

PC: For a brand to grow today, it has to think outside the box. We believe a lot in capsule collections and collaborations, as well as in distribution channels that are out of the ordinary. For example, the hotel industry can be a very important vector for the expansion of a brand.

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