By  on October 4, 2011

MILAN — To shape a new course for the brand, Vionnet has tapped Italian twin sisters Barbara and Lucia Croce as creative directors, parting ways with Rodolfo Paglialunga.

“They have strong personalities and they’ve worked in international contexts,” said Vionnet co-owner and chairman Matteo Marzotto of the designers. “They have a strong knowledge of the métier and of the market, have a pulse on merchandising, and understand the customer.”

Marzotto said Vionnet is poised for the next step in its expansion and that the Croce sisters will be able to forge that path. Barbara Croce has worked at Prada, Miu Miu, Gucci and Ralph Lauren, while her sister has worked at Valentino, Neil Barrett and Ter et Bantine, including collaborations in Turkey and Japan. Their first collection for Vionnet will bow for the pre- fall 2012 season under a three-year agreement.

The entrepreneur plans to open Vionnet’s first directly operated store in Milan in November, followed by shop-in-shops in Russia and China. An expanded product offering is a must to support this expansion, said Marzotto, who bought the house of Vionnet in 2009 with his longtime friend and Marni chief executive officer Gianni Castiglioni.

“The brand has become a company, and different dynamics are in place to help it grow,” he said. “Rudy is a talented and creative designer who has allowed us to restart a brand that had been sleeping for 60 years, with only a few elements to go on — books or photos, but no archives,” said Marzotto, noting that Paglialunga’s departure was by mutual agreement.

“Creating 10 collections with Vionnet has been for me an enriching experience both from human and professional sides. I would like to thank the company in its whole for the passion and dedication daily devoted to the project,” said Paglialunga.

Paglialunga, one of Miuccia Prada’s design assistants for 12 years, joined Vionnet in January 2009. “I want to thank him, he was very committed and competent and we had a good personal relationship. He has created a look that has become influential, and infused glamour to Vionnet’s designs,” said Marzotto of the designer’s draped, graphic and bias-cut dresses and color-blocked tunics.

Industry sources speculate that Marzotto was looking for a designer who would be able to push the accelerator on the design front and offer a wider range of products and designs. One source said the increased pressure didn’t suit Paglialunga’s laid-back attitude.

Vionnet, which was founded in 1912 by Madeleine Vionnet, is expected to close 2011 with sales of 7 million euros, or $9.8 million at average exchange rate, up from 5 million euros, or $7.1 million, in 2010. The brand is currently available at 180 points of sale.

The U.S., Russia and Italy are Vionnet’s main markets, together with online sales. In the U.S., the brand is available at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Jeffrey and Nordstrom.

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