European Antitrust Officials Continue Fashion Probe


EC concerned Cardin and manufacturer have been colluding for years.


        • EC wants to know if companies engaged in “absolute territorial protection.”
        • Companies allegedly agreed to restrict other licensees and their customers from offline and online sales.
        • Firms may also be conspiring to restrict sales to discount retailers in the region.

The European Commission has informed French fashion house Pierre Cardin and a major manufacturer-licensee, The Ahlers Group of Germany, that they may be running afoul of EU antitrust rules by restricting cross-border sales of Pierre Cardin-licensed clothing, as well as sales to specific customers.

The Commission launched its investigation in January 2023 and informed the companies of their potential violations in July. The investigation continues.

Pierre Cardin licenses its trademark for the manufacture and distribution of its clothing to a number of garment makers. Ahlers is the largest manufacturer-licensee of the fashion brand’s products in the European Economic Area (EEA).

The Commission is concerned that Pierre Cardin and Ahlers have been carrying out anticompetitive agreements for more than a decade. The pair have allegedly agreed to restrict other Pierre Cardin licensees and their customers from offline and online sales into Ahlers’ EEA licensed territories. They may also be conspiring to restrict sales to discount retailers in the region.

The objective of coordination between Pierre Cardin and Ahlers is ensure Ahlers’ “absolute territorial protection,” according to the preliminary view of the Commission.

There is no deadline for the Commission to conclude antitrust investigations.

Earlier this year, 88-year-old founder Pierre Cardin reportedly said he wanted to sell the company for €1 billion ($1.48 billion). According to Fashion Network, that figure would be five times bank valuations.

The Commission has been focused on potentially restrictive agreements the fashion industry in recent years, conducing surprise inspections of businesses in April 2023. The authority said the raids were prompted by concerns that the companies may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices including certain horizontal and vertical restrictions. Other fashion-related raids were conducted by the Commission in June 2021 and May 2022.

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