The financial woes of the Ruyi Group, China’s largest textiles and clothing company, touched Savile Row this week, with the news that Gieves & Hawkes may be forced into liquidation.
Having not been able to meet a repayment deadline for €250 million worth of bonds issued in September 2018, Trinity, a subsidiary company of Ruyi Group, received a winding up petition from banking giant Standard Chartered.
In addition to iconic Savile Row brand Gieves & Hawkes, Trinity owns Cerruti1881, Kent & Curwen and the Japanese brand D’urban. Liquidators are apparently seeking a buyer for the tailoring company but, should this attempt fail, it could mean the end of the business, which continues to have a store at 1 Savile Row and 58 shops in 25 cities.
Crippling Debt Burdens
In an effort to transform itself into a global fashion conglomerate, Shandong Ruyi, the company touted as the potential LVMH of China, went on a three-year overseas spending spree starting in 2016.
During this period, it acquired French group Sandro, Maje & Claudie Pierlot (SMCP), Swiss shoemaker Bally and British brands Aquascutum, TM Lewin and Gieves & Hawkes.
But with a slowing Chinese economy, and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Ruyi faced a liquidity crunch. Its debts now total $4bn according to a recent report by The Times.
A London Institution Since 1771
Founded in 1771, Gieves and Hawkes has long been one of the best known faces of Savile Row, London’s iconic fine tailoring district.
Gieves & Hawkes was formed from two famous companies: Gieves, founded in 1785, and Hawkes, founded in 1771.
The tailoring institution has clothed historical figures from the Duke of Wellington to Churchill, even tailoring the suit that Admiral Nelson was wearing when he died.
More recently, the broader cultural shift away from fine tailoring has significantly impacted Savile Row. Shops owned by Abercrombie & Fitch, Chester Barrie, Hardy Amies, Kilgour and Alexander McQueen have all closed on the street in recent years.
COVID-19, however, has presented Savile Row with a set of unique challenges. Shops were closed completely for many months, as well as being cut off from international clients who have played a vital role in the street’s success since the 1960’s.