By  on October 6, 2006

PARIS — Celine designer Ivana Omazic has more than 300 pairs of shoes — and counting.

“Shoes are my personal fetish,” she confessed. “I love them. For me, they speak directly to a woman’s instincts. And it’s true, I have some pairs I’ve only worn once or twice.”

Her passion should serve her well. Expanding the footwear category, the root of the 61-year-old French brand, is a key growth tack as Celine aims to become another “star brand” for its parent, luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

“Celine has always been perceived as a woman-friendly brand,” said Omazic, who showed her third collection for the house Thursday (see review, left). “This is what I want to continue.”

The designer’s female-centered approach is already showing positive business results.

After a tumultuous 2005, when business took a tumble under designer Roberto Menichetti, sales have rebounded to “Michael Kors levels — and beyond,” said Celine’s new chief executive, Serge Brunschwig, referring to 1997 to 2004, when the American designer was at the creative helm and the firm expanded rapidly. “We’re extremely encouraged.”

In an interview, Brunschwig said Celine is “at a turning point.…It will take some years to achieve that [star] status. But in two years, we will have all the elements in place to start the growth plan.”

To be sure, Brunschwig proclaimed that 33-year-old Omazic, a Croatian tapped from Prada Group, is steering the brand back to its sportswear roots. “It’s luxury clothes for everyday life,” he said. “[Ivana] has an extremely strong point of view on fashion, and how fashion should be tailored and designed for women.

“Celine is not a brand for spectacle,” he continued. “It’s a brand for real life.”

Brunschwig, who joined the firm last March from Louis Vuitton, where he had been managing director, declined to give any figures. But he characterized Omazic’s debut spring 2006 collection as Celine’s strongest seller in five years at its own retail stores, led by such styles as updated trenchcoats, shirts, A-line skirts and shirtdresses.

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