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Zanini Named Rochas Creative Director

Former Halston designer Marco Zanini to show his first collection for Rochas next March in Paris.

MILAN — In appointing Marco Zanini as the new creative director at Rochas, Gibò Co. SpA president Franco Penè said the revamped brand will be anything but a “bonfire of the vanities.”

“We’re not looking to generate editorial hype, because we’re thinking of a sensibly priced luxury brand that caters to the everyday needs of women,” said Penè. “In other words, real clothes that are useful and beautiful. Zanini understands that we don’t want to be a status brand.”

The Italian designer will debut his first effort in Paris in March for fall 2009.

The storied French label was resurrected last month — two years after brand owner Procter & Gamble Co. closed the money-losing fashion house — via a global licensing deal with Gibò to manufacture and distribute Rochas.

Zanini was recruited from Versace to rejuvenate Halston last year, but left that company in July after two seasons and lukewarm reviews. Penè is unfazed by the designer’s short-lived Halston stint, noting he doesn’t really care what happened.

“We liked his sensibility, his penchant for daywear and the fact that he will be fully dedicated to the line without having to divide his energy with a namesake collection,” acknowledged Penè.

Prior to its closure, Rochas was designed by Olivier Theyskens (now at Nina Ricci), although that designer’s expensive red-carpet gowns are the opposite of what Penè imagines for the brand’s comeback. He’s also critical of the recent explosion of logoed and entry–price products championed by top-tier brands to target a larger consumer base. “We want to do the opposite of what luxury multinationals are doing,” said Penè.

As far as distribution of Rochas, Penè aims for no more than 200 sales points worldwide and plans to reach a wholesale volume of 10 million euros, or $12.7 million at current exchange, although given the current state of the global economy, there is no set time frame as to when that might happen.

Favoring craftsmanship over showmanship in terms of brand positioning, Penè wants the clothes to exude an artisanal feeling. “We want to re-create a work method similar to the one adopted by artisans who worked on every single piece,” said Penè.

To that end, Zanini will exploit Gibo’s production facilities that produce apparel, knitwear and accessories for designer firms including Jil Sander, Viktor & Rolf, Paul Smith, John Galliano, Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors.