PPR, parent company of Gucci, Sergio Rossi and other luxury brands, has signed an agreement to acquire Brioni, the leading Italian manufacturer of high-end men's clothing, whose clients include chiefs of state such as Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin as well as other important personalities such as Donald Trump and Daniel Craig, the British actor who is currently playing James Bond.

According to conflicting reports, the French group is paying between €220 million and €300 million for the Italian company, whose 2010 sales of €170 million were down from a level of around €200 million in 2007 because of the financial crisis. PPR's management indicated that it sees a lot of potential for Brioni in its core business and in other related sectors where the group has a solid expertise such as footwear and other accessories, which currently account for much less than 10 percent of its turnover.

As previously reported, the consulting firm Bain & Company sees the demand for men's shoes rising faster than for women's shoes at the high end of the market, especially in emerging markets.

Taking the opposite route, LVMH, the major rival of PPR, has dispatched Antoine Arnault, son of its president and chief executive, to turn Berluti, the famous brand of men's shoes, into a broader lifestyle brand. Berluti plans to present a full collection of men's wear, designed by Alessandro Sartori, at the men's fashion shows in Paris next January, but its stores in Paris and New York have already started to features some shirts, sweaters and jackets from the future line.