By  on May 22, 2007

PARIS — The short association between Vionnet and Sophia Kokosalaki is over.

The French brand, with a heritage for artistically draped evening gowns, on Monday said it had appointed Marc Audibet, a former Hermès and Prada designer, to replace Kokosalaki, who was hired last year to relaunch the legendary label.

Audibet's first collection for Vionnet is expected to be a showroom presentation during the upcoming Paris couture in July.

Arnaud de Lummen, Vionnet's chief executive officer, said the decision to replace Kokosalaki was prompted by the Greek designer's sale in January of her brand to Staff International, the manufacturing arm of Italy's Diesel fashion business.

"We weren't displeased with Sophia," said de Lummen. "But we have our own ambitions and she has hers. We want to develop Vionnet and it will help that we have a designer devoted full-time to that task."

De Lummen said he wanted to develop a full-blown accessories line by fall 2008 while also expanding Vionnet's ready-to-wear.

He said the house now would open wholesaling internationally after a year of exclusivity with Barneys New York, though that store will continue to sell Vionnet exclusively in the U.S. for at least another year.

"Marc is a thinking designer," said de Lummen. "He is comfortable with concept, which we felt was important for the brand."

Audibet, who is 52, is an industry veteran who has worked with a panoply of fashion houses, including Prada, Hermès, Trussardi and Ferragamo, where he was chief designer until 2001.

"Marc has a very Parisian sensibility," said de Lummen.

"It was interesting to contribute to the relaunch of Vionnet, but I realized it was the right time to move on, and I'm finally happy to focus my energy on my own label, which is growing very fast," Kokosalaki said in a statement.

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