PARIS — Emanuel Ungaro said Friday that it has hired Esteban Cortazar as the house's new women's wear designer, confirming a WWD report the 23-year-old Colombian would become the latest person to try to reinvigorate the firm.
"I believe in his talent," explained Ungaro chief executive officer Mounir Moufarrige of Cortazar. "He has a very fresh understanding of the female body and a new take on fashion that excited me."
Cortazar's first show for the house will be during the upcoming fall collections here. Moufarrige said Cortazar's contract was "long term," underscoring a desire to bring stability to the house, which was founded in 1965 by the couturier Emanuel Ungaro.
"Stability is what the house needs," admitted Moufarrige. "We've gone through the jitters and we lacked strategy. The brand has aged and it needs buzz — and fast."
Cortazar, who gained attention when he launched a signature line in New York at the age of 18, joins Ungaro, known for its sexy draping and vibrant prints, at a rocky time. Over the last few seasons the revolving door has seen come and go the likes of Vincent Darré and, most recently, Peter Dundas. Both designers failed to meet management's expectations.
In fact, the house has been floating without a firm hand on the rudder since the departure of Giambattista Valli, who took over after the retirement of Ungaro in 2004.
Ferragamo, which purchased the house in 1996, sold it to high-tech entrepreneur Asim Abdullah in 2005. Sources estimate Ungaro had wholesale sales of about $250 million last year. The brand operates 14 freestanding boutiques around the world and is carried in about 75 retail accounts.
"Sales reached a peak [under Valli]," said Moufarrige. Though he admitted sales had improved recently, Moufarrige said the house needed a more vibrant identity. "The brand needs to be younger," he said. "We need to take the DNA of the house and reinvent it and modernize it."
Moufarrige said he interviewed 18 candidates for the post. The likes of Christopher Kane, Sophia Kokosalaki, Hedi Slimane and Marios Schwab are among those Moufarrige is believed to have approached."Esteban knows what makes a woman tick," said Moufarrige, who is known for making surprising designer choices. (When he was president of Chloé, Moufarrige hired the then 25-year-old Stella McCartney to replace Karl Lagerfeld.)
"I liked that he had a very fluid hand and that he was very Latin and young," continued the executive. "Talent has no age. Kids today surprise us. Mozart started at nine. Chopin at seven. I think [Cortazar] has been called a prodigy. He's very clever. When you talk to him, you think you're speaking to a man of 35."
Cortazar, who will devote all of his time to Ungaro, garnered a reputation in New York for his intricate cocktail confections and romantic dresses.
Moufarrige recently appointed designer Frank Boclet to energize Ungaro's men's business.
"'Dynasty' is all about gowns, the diamonds and the scandal, so it's a bit like the fashion industry. When we come to Cannes it's all about the red carpet dresses too, so it all fit really well," said designer @philippplein78 on the theme of his high-glamour resort 2019 show at his mansion in Cannes. #wwdfashion #cannes (📷: @zefashioninsider)
"I think Spike is such a brilliant director because he holds up a mirror to society and reflects these issues, yet he doesn't shove it down your throat, he doesn't tell you what to think," says @lauraharrier on her latest film @Blackkklansman. Harrier was at the Cannes Film Festival – for the very first time – with @officialspikelee. #wwdeye #cannes (📷: @zefashioninsider)
“I would think to myself, Are you happy? Yes, I’m wildly happy. I go to this studio every day and, in my inside voices, I’m giggling; I’m singing. Yes, it’s a lot of work, it’s a [huge] volume of material. It wouldn’t be for everybody. But I was very happy,” said soap opera star @therealsusanlucci of checking in throughout the years with her career trajectory. Lucci spoke to WWD about her decades-long career, love for pilates, motherhood and her QVC activewear line. Read Bridget Foley’s full piece on Lucci on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: @celestesloman)
@balmain has taken a stand at the #cannes Film Festival, dressing 16 actresses at a press call for the project “Noire N’est Pas Mon Metier,” or “Black Is Not My Profession.” The multimedia project includes a book, photo exhibit and documentary, which aims to expose discrimination in the French and American entertainment industries. “The moment I was asked to participate, I knew it was right for me, and for this brand, to form a part of this moment,” Balmain creative director @olivier_rousteing told WWD. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
"I always feel curious and I feel like there's more to learn. But I think being relevant, feeling relevant, I personally always feel that there's just so much more to know. And maybe that's the key.” — @themarcjacobs #wwdsummits #wwdbeauty (📷: @patrickmacleodphoto )
“The most amazing thing about her is that, regardless of all the things that have happened to her, her spirit is so undaunted by all of it. She is the most cheerful person you will ever meet. She doesn’t see problems, she only sees solutions,” said @ajanaomi_king of activist Ifrah Ahmed, who she plays in a new film “A Girl from Mogadishu.” WWD caught up with King at Cannes — Head to WWD.com to read more about her new role, personal style and how she uses social media for causes like Time’s Up and Black Lives Matter #wwdeye
WWD asked a number designers to share their thoughts on what Meghan Markle’s wedding gown will look like this Saturday. Here, Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli sketches his look. #wwdfashion #royalwedding #meghanmarkle