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New Look has been bought for £780 million by a South African magnate.

Brait, who is controlled by retail billionaire Christo Wiese, has bought a 90% stake in the budget fashion chain and the family of Tom Singh, who founded the company in 1969, and other senior management will have the remaining 10% stake.

New Look, who has more than 800 stores in 21 countries including  stores in both Hastings and Bexhill, is being sold by the private equity firms Apax and Permira. In 2004, they took the chain private in a £700 million deal because the retailer had spent six years listed on the London stock market.

In 2010, the firms planned to relist New Look but the stock market flotation was abandoned due to volatile market conditions. The Brait deal means that Apax and Permira will not make any attempt to float New Look, which is carrying around £1 billion of debt.

Brait stated that it had originally bought New Look for its 600 stores in the UK and its possibility of growth in markets such as China and continental Europe. It also has a near 20% stake in the food retailer Iceland and had bought a controlling stake in the Virgin Active gym chain for around £700 million last month.

Anders Kristiansen, chief executive for New Look, will stay on following the purchase. In recent years, Mr Wiese has been linked with a string of UK retail takeovers which includes a bid for department chain BHS, formerly owned by Sir Philip Green.

Another investment of Mr Wiese’s, Pepkor, is launching a discount fashion chain in the UK called Pep & Co with Andy Bond, who is the former Asda chief executive. It plans to open 50 stores, creative 500 new jobs by the end of the summer.

A rising independent brand called ‘St Leonards’ features leather bags that are made with great care, delicacy and personalized features. All products are handcrafted at the home studio of K Avery-Stallion or by using out-sourcing to a London workshop.

st leonards bags

K Avery-Stallion in the workshop with some of her St Leonards creations and definitely a fashion label to keep an eye on.

Founded in 2010, the owner sold her Figaro convertible to raise £6000 to buy the first prototypes and from this, the business began to flourish. The products are currently exported to a Japanese department store called Watanabe British Made who sell new British brands. The leather bags are featured in two of their stores, Tokyo and Osaka.

The business also receives a lot of customer referrals from the online marketing of the directory Make it British. Not only that, but K Avery-Stallion has made some bespoke pieces for the design icon Margaret Howell. Interns from local colleges are also involved for the understanding of the design and leather manufacturing process.

“Having worked in fashion and overseen Far East and Indian manufacturing, I had plenty of contacts,” said K Avery-Stallion. “But for me, being close to the making process not only supports the UK economy, it revitalises dying skills and is more sustainable too.”

St Leonards recently launched a set of three 1-day leather workshops that gives both men and women a chance to try something new, leaving with a stylish handcrafted product. The workshops are limited to 4 people to each session, meaning anyone who wants to be involved will also get an engaging tutor experience as well as a welcoming learning vibe.

“My dream is to get big enough orders to be able to fund a dedicated seaside workshop, employ staff from the local community and set up apprenticeships too,” said the founder.

On Friday 1st May, local British designers of women’s clothes, shoes, jewellery and accessories are selling old stock and samples. St Leonards is participating in the event with other designers such as Pearl & Queenie, Olivia Morris Shoes, Warp & Weft and more. The event will be held on 40a Norman Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex.

You can find out more about St Leonards here.