PARIS — Opting for a hidden talent to ramp up development at Azzaro, the Paris-based house has tapped Mathilde Castello Branco as its new creative director, WWD has learned.
Previously, Castello Branco, 39, worked at the elbow of Alber Elbaz at Lanvin. The Franco-Brazilian designer started at Azzaro on Thursday and is to unveil her first designs in January for pre-fall 2012.
She succeeds Vanessa Seward, an assistant to house founder Loris Azzaro who took over the design reins following his death in 2003. Seward generated buzz by revisiting such iconic eveningwear styles as the Three Rings dress and by enlisting a string of collaborators.
But Castello Branco’s creative purview is broader, spanning licenses, including men’s wear and fragrances, the latter produced by Groupe Clarins.
Born in São Paolo to a painter mother and an engineer father, Castello Branco moved to Paris at age 20, studying design and fashion at the École Duperré and the Atelier Chardon-Savard. Her first job was at Hermès when Martin Margiela was at the creative helm of women’s ready-to-wear and she moved to Lanvin just before Elbaz arrived in 2001.
On Thursday, wearing a roomy black Jil Sander shirtdress, her hair pulled neatly into a high bun, Castello Branco said she started her Azzaro education over the summer, flipping through a visual archive of more than a thousand dresses on an iPad.
“I saw a lot of sensuality, a lot of glamour, and a lot of life in those dresses,” she enthused.
The soft-spoken designer characterized sensuality and chic as the two main ingredients for winning style. “I don’t want fashion to be only for women or only to please men. I want them both to be happy,” she said.
An unabashed fan of the dress, Castello Branco said she wears one “maybe 363 days of the year” and has been known to belt up a coat and wear it as a dress. She said she loves fashion periods that exalted the waist, including the beginning of the century and the Fifties, and that she likes to “play with length.”
The late actress Romy Schneider is a key female icon, treasured for her mix of charm, class and a touch of drama, Castello Branco said.
Founded in 1967, Azzaro quickly became known for glamorous and body-hugging gowns worn by the likes of Claudia Cardinale, Raquel Welch and Sophia Loren. Over the last decade, stars including Nicole Kidman and Penélope Cruz have worn Azzaro on the red carpet. In 2006, Reig Capital, an Andorra, Spain-based private equity firm, acquired Azzaro with the intention of broadening its retail reach and adding lucrative product categories such as leather goods, footwear and costume jewelry.
Castello Branco arrives at a time of strong momentum for Azzaro. Chief executive officer Nathalie Franson said company sales to the end of July are up 35 percent versus a year ago. She said the brand would guard its luxury positioning, with dresses retailing from 800 to 10,000 euros, or $1,140 to $14,280 at current exchange rates.
Azzaro operates freestanding stores in Paris and London and wholesales its collections to about 100 retailers, with Eastern Europe, Western Europe and the Middle East its three largest markets, Franson noted.
The brand plans to present its spring 2012 collection, designed by the studio, on Oct. 2 at its just-refurbished flagship store on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. It will also host a party Oct. 4 at the Jeu de Paume for the launch of an Assouline tome by Jéromine Savignon on the storied Paris house.
“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