I returned from my recent business trip to Paris to find some very passionate comments on an earlier post regarding the recent acquisition of the House of Vionnet by Matteo Marzotto, former CEO of Valentino. To those readers who took the time to leave comments, I would like to say "thank you". Your passionate interest and insights give me tremendous satisfaction and deserve a follow-up post. So, here it is.
In response to your comments, I would simply point out that reviving a fashion house is rarely, if ever, an act of altruism. At it's core, it is premised on the belief that the label's history and archives can appeal to today's consumers. Fashion after all is an industry and the success of any label hinges on achieving the right balance between creativity and commercialism. It takes more than merely bringing back archival pieces and re-editing them to appeal to modern tastes. It requires a business and design team with the sensibility and vision required to infuse the brand with modernity while remaining true to the brand's heritage. No small feat, I readily concede but there is precedent for it: Balenciaga under the creative direction of Nicolas Ghesquiere, Christian Dior under John Galliano and Chanel under Karl Lagerfeld.
Also, I would like to point out that over the past few decades, fashion has become a truly global industry. There is fantastic design, manufacturing and business talent in every corner of the world. For instance, French fashion brand Lanvin in owned by an Asian investor and is designed by Alber Elbaz, an Israeli designer of Moroccan ancestry who learned his trade from American designer Geoffrey Beene. If that isn't proof positive of fashion's global credentials, I don't know what is. While the creations of Madeleine Vionnet were in their day the epitome of Parisian chic and the label still stands for French elegance and sophistication, the fact is that the label was allowed to flounder miserably in recent times and much of the blame (rightly or wrongly) seems to have been laid at the feet of its French C.E.O., Arnaud de Lummen (Mr. Lummen's family purchased the brand in 1988). While financing seems to have been at issue, money alone is not enough to make a fashion brand successful as the troubles at the newly re-launched Halston label can attest. So, I would have to agree with Sandra Ericson, I don't believe that the label requires a French owner or a French designer to remain a French brand in style and spirit.
This said, my hope is that the label will remain based in Paris and manufactured in France by its own petites mains. First, fashion as an industry is being hard hit everywhere and French garment workers like their American and Italian counterparts need the employment. Also, and perhaps more importantly, having just returned from a brief trip to Paris, I can honestly say that there is something about the city and its exquisitely chic residents that infuses even the most mundane elements of daily life with a verve and a flair that is unique. I would think that this vibe would be tremendously useful if not essential to a designer trying to reinterpret the label's quintessentially Gallic DNA. Otherwise, it risks becoming just another cynical marketing ploy.
In any event, I do think that Mr. Marzotto deserves a chance. He has yet to comment publicly on his acquisition and I for one can't wait to hear what his plans are for the label. So, Mr. Marzotto, if you happen to stumble upon this little blog, please know that we wish you the best of luck and that we're rooting for you to succeed.
The Luxe Chronicles