MILAN — The Luxembourg-based GoTo Enterprises Sarl, controlled by Goga Ashkenazi, has taken full control of Vionnet SpA.
Ashkenazi, whose role is that of chairwoman and creative director, has purchased the remaining minority stake from Matteo Marzotto and his associates, including Marni’s chief executive officer Gianni Castiglioni, held through their CAMA Holding Srl vehicle. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“I’m pouring money, heart and soul into Vionnet. It’s my passion; I’m the first in in the morning and the last to leave in the evening, I’m entirely hands-on,” Ashkenazi told WWD. “I’m at my happiest now. I’ve always wanted to work in fashion and now the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place.”
Former creative directors Barbara and Lucia Croce left the company at the end of August and the entrepreneur said that, at first, it was not her plan to take on the creative direction of the brand. “It sort of landed on me in the middle of a season, and I jumped into it, but the collections were starting to go down, they were not being well received by the market,” she said, while the spring season shown in Paris in October, which she took a bow for, saw a 35 percent increase in sales from the year before.
D’Amato, a former assistant to Giambattista Valli at Emanuel Ungaro and a past winner of the Italian Vogue and Alta Roma-sponsored Who Is on Next contest, launched a collection in 2004 and has also worked with Emilio Pucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace and Les Copains. The Greek Bratis won the Who Is on Next contest last year, while footwear designer Dolcini counts his own namesake line and several design collaborations, including Pucci.
“They are strong and talented,” said Ashkenazi of the designers. “I feel I have a direction, a consistent idea and I’m clear with what I want to achieve,” she said, adding that she will continue to head the team “for the first few seasons,” without ruling out the appointment of a new creative director.
“There’s a fantastic energy now, we all work harmoniously, it’s almost like a family, there’s a nice atmosphere,” Ashkenazi said, adding that she’s thrown a few dinner parties in her new home in Milan to cement the camaraderie. While intent on keeping the brand French, Ashkenazi plans to maintain production in Italy, where there is the “best quality,” she said, and has invested in expanding Vionnet’s headquarters in Milan with an additional floor in the stately palazzo first selected by Marzotto and more space for the atelier. “I love Italy,” added Ashkenazi, who hails from Kazakhstan, was raised in Moscow and educated in the U.K.
Ashkenazi’s goal is to grow the company by 35 to 40 percent each year, characterizing this estimate as “humble.” In 2011, Vionnet reported sales of 7.5 million euros, or $10.4 million at average exchange, and revenues are expected to total 9 million euros, or $11.5 million at current exchange, in 2012.
To achieve this, she is considering building a retail network, which currently comprises a boutique in Milan and one in Kuwait City, and extending the brand’s product offer, while keeping the core focus on apparel. “Also, we should be much bigger in Asia,” she noted.
Europe accounts for 50 percent of Vionnet’s business, followed by Eastern Europe (20 percent), the U.S. (14 percent), and the rest of the world making up the remainder. There are 200 points of sale that carry the brand globally. Ashkenazi revealed that a deal to secure a space for a boutique in Paris fell through this week. “We will continue to look actively for a unit there to open in the near future with a new concept,” said Ashkenazi.
The entrepreneur said she felt the purchase of the brand was a “tremendous opportunity” for her. “Madeleine Vionnet remains an inspiration for the fashion industry today, and is a huge inspiration for me. Her pieces are our Bible, she was revolutionary, and had all the basics for what fashion looks to,” she said, remarking on how the designer liberated women from the more “corseted and constrained” styles before her.
Despite Vionnet’s brief career, the designer developed about 5,000 pieces, marveled Ashkenazi. “I’m having a fantastic time reinterpreting these designs. I’m drawn by the brand’s heritage, the tremendous history, the unsurpassed elegance and true chicness.”
While not disclosing details about future collections, she said the “incorporation between art, fashion and industrial design” is essential “to be revolutionary.”
Ashkenazi’s eclectic background may be of assistance in this goal. An Oxford University graduate in modern history and economics, she worked at Merrill Lynch, ABN AMRO and Morgan Stanley before starting her own business in oil and gas infrastructure construction and mining.
While conceding that, in today’s world, to compete with big conglomerates, linking up with or selling to a major luxury goods group may be in the cards for her down the road, Ashkenazi said she was fully committed to building Vionnet first.
“When it’s on the right path, I may focus on something else, but I’m interested in growing Vionnet first. This is for the long term, I’m not interested in a turnaround to sell the brand. This is for life,” she concluded.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast