MILAN — Ballantyne is reshaping its future under a new chairman and creative director. Moving away from a classic look, the cashmere brand is aiming for a younger, more fashionable customer. In order to achieve the goal, Ballantyne has set up a production company in Italy’s Perugia, in the country’s central Umbria region, which is a pivotal cashmere-manufacturing hub. The firm has also slashed its price range by 20 percent.
“We’ve cut the industrial cost of our product with our new manufacturing structure to offer a more interesting price, but the quality remains top level,” said Giacomo Canessa, Ballantyne’s new chairman and brother of the late Alfredo Canessa, who died in March 2009. The Canessas founded Malo in 1972 and Giacomo Canessa was previously a Ballantyne consultant.
“Our new Ballantyne factory in Perugia is the beating heart of the company,” noted chief executive officer Giuseppe Rossi. That said, the company has also reopened a manufacturing site in Innerleithen, Scotland, with about 30 employees specialized in making intarsia sweaters, which are the brand’s signature.
Two years ago, Massimiliano Zegna Baruffa acquired a controlling stake in a 200-year-old Scottish mill formerly owned by Ballantyne, which retained a 20 percent stake. Brooks Brothers also took a 25 percent shareholding in the mill, which has been operating under the name of JJ & HB 1788 Cashmere Mills. Under Zegna Baruffa, the business did not take off and the company is currently in administration. To preserve the brand’s traditional Scottish craftsmanship, Ballantyne last year set up a new, separate company, called Caerlee Mills Ltd.
Alfredo Argirò was tapped as the brand’s new creative director, succeeding Dawidh di Firmo, and his first collection will debut at retail this fall. Argirò previously worked at Brunello Cucinelli, Loro Piana, Avon Celli and Givenchy. “We are aiming for a fresher, more urbane and dynamic, yet practical look,” said Canessa. While continuing to focus on color, Rossi said the brand will be “more disciplined” with the use of color, seen in the future as more classic and less “for leisure time.” More wovens are also expected. Wholesale prices will range from 80 to 140 euros, or $97 to $169 at current exchange rates, for a skirt, and from 80 to 120 euros upwards, or $97 to $145, for cashmere knits, depending on the workmanship.
In 2002, Alfredo Canessa bought Ballantyne from Dawson International and, in 2004, Italian private equity fund Charme took control of the firm.
The company, which last year reported sales of 25 million euros, or $34.7 million at average exchange rates, counts four stores, in Milan, Italian resort towns Cortina d’Ampezzo and Porto Cervo, and London. Ballantyne is also available at 200 points of sale, including Harrods, Galeries Lafayette, and La Rinascente. Under the new direction, Ballantyne has drawn new clients, from Milan’s 10 Corso Como to Paris’ L’Eclaireur, and Luisa Via Roma in Florence.
Rossi said two stores in Sicily, in Catania and Taormina, will open by September and that the company is looking for a space in Rome. A boutique is also slated to open in Russia next spring. “China is also a priority,” said Rossi.
“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