By  on July 29, 2010

Lance Isham is using Façonnable’s birthplace, the French Riviera, as the springboard for new businesses and product categories that exploit the brand’s chic origins.

Isham, a Façonnable board member who was appointed chairman and chief executive officer on June 1, hopes to double the brand’s 2009 estimated volume of 200 million euros, or $225 million, in five years.

“The advantage of this brand is that its inspiration comes from the Cote d’Azur,” he said. “Consumers want to experience this lifestyle through our freestanding stores.”

The company is imbuing new products with that enviable way of life, including a denim collection, luxury sportswear and eveningwear. Façonnable is unveiling an e-commerce site and opening stores in the U.S. and Europe. The Nice, France-based brand is also diving into footwear, accessories, small leather goods and luggage in an effort to give its male and female customers everything they could want under the Mediterranean sun.

A freestanding retail concept built around jeans will have a separate development group and design team. “We’re looking for jeans locations in markets where there’s [Façonnable] brand recognition and where we have experience,” Isham said, citing Paris, Madrid, New York and Los Angeles as possible target cities. The jeans customer is in his or her late-20s to 30s, a half-generation or full generation younger than the Façonnable shopper, Isham said.

In terms of the size of the denim business, Isham compared its retail potential to Façonnable, which operates nine stores in the U.S., 40 company-owned stores worldwide and 75 to 80 total units around the globe, including franchised stores. “There are about 50 to 60 very good locations for Façonnable in the U.S.,” he said. “There’s probably more than that for jeans. If we ever wanted to do men’s stores and women’s stores, we could have even more locations.”

Atelier, a new collection priced above the core Classique, will offer chic casualwear for men. A women’s line will bow in 2011 consisting of luxury sportswear, daywear, eveningwear and cocktailwear. The collection uses luxury fibers and leathers and is sourced and manufactured in Europe. It will be sold in Façonnable’s top stores and wholesale distribution.

Façonnable is launching “very extensive footwear for men and women” as well as accessories, small leather goods and casual luggage.

Men’s has long been a bigger part of the brand’s business, but Isham is trying to achieve some parity. “The main initiative is to bring women’s wear recognition,” he said. “I believe women’s could be a larger business than men’s.”

Conjuring up the sea, Façonnable is introducing Azure, a beach collection that includes swimwear, linen shirts and robes.

“We’re launching our first e-commerce site for the U.S., France and Belgium,” Isham said. “I look at it as a store. In a short time it will definitely be our largest store or surpass [the sales volume] of two stores or three stores.”

M1 Fashion, the diversified Beirut, Lebanon-based company that in 2007 bought Façonnable from Nordstrom for $210 million, hasn’t been extremely aggressive about opening stores. Isham said that will change now that the collection and store design are in sync with the brand’s positioning. The spring-summer 2011 collection features sun-saturated shades and clear blue hues, and a new French Riviera-inspired store prototype has chevron-patterned unfinished white oak floors, honey-colored oak paneling and turquoise linen ottomans.

“There is more of an understanding of what is the right investment,” Isham said. “When they bought the company, the world fell apart and there was some uncertainty about the direction of the brand. We are very grounded and know where we want to go. As far as M1’s resolve, we opened three stores last year and have three opening this fall. We also have a very aggressive renovation schedule, starting with the St. Germain- des-Prés unit in Paris.”

Faconnable will unveil stores at the Galleria in Dallas, Aventura Mall in Miami and Cherry Creek Shopping Center in Denver. A flagship will bow in Rome in the spring and a seasonal location is planned for Capri. “We’re going to be much more aggressive in Germany and Italy,” Isham said. “Spain is also very strong, and we’re looking for a partner in the Pacific Rim.” There will be more locations in the New York metropolitan area. And the company is mulling its alternatives on Fifth Avenue, where it operates a store at Rockefeller Center. Isham said Façonnable could renovate the store or sublease it and find another location on Fifth Avenue.

Façonnable is also enhancing systems to facilitate communication with franchisees and wholesale customers. “It’s a big initiative,” Isham said. “We definitely plan on growing our wholesale business with the right partner.”

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