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Designing From a Man’s World

Men’s wear designer Victoria Grantham looks for inspiration for her first women’s collection in good old American sportswear.

NEW YORK — Born and trained in Britain, having worked in Paris and now living in Milan, where else could Victoria Grantham look for inspiration for her first women’s collection than good old American sportswear?

This story first appeared in the March 26, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

After focusing nearly her entire career on dressing men, the 34-year-old designer is targeting the women’s market for fall with a collection that infuses elements of several of her international work experiences. Rather than reinventing the wheel, as some men’s designers have in past efforts to cross the gender barrier, Grantham said her women’s designs follow along the same methods and techniques she employs in the two-year-old VGrantham men’s collection, based in Milan.

“Psychologically, it relates more to a man’s view of fashion, as opposed to that of a woman,” Grantham said, pointing to tailored jackets and the hot pink grosgrain trim sewn into the lining of a white fishtail coat. “The point is that these clothes have to be versatile and look natural for women, because I don’t want to impose my ideas on anyone. I’d rather see their individuality in the way they put things together. American sportswear influenced me a lot in the way I put this together.”

Grantham’s 50-piece women’s collection, which is being shown in the Niccolo Showroom in New York, as well as in Spain, France, Japan and Italy, is based on what she describes as essential elements of a woman’s wardrobe — classic lightweight coats that can also serve as dresses, round cotton jackets inspired by a military flight jacket, a pair of jodhpur pants with crisscross lace trim —?an idea that stuck with her from the four years in the Nineties when she designed the men’s collection at Donna Karan New York, and where she also met her husband, Fabio Guidetti, who is president of VGrantham.

Grantham was also behind the launch of men’s ready-to-wear at Louis Vuitton, where Marc Jacobs hired her in 1996 and gave her free reign to construct the look of the collection. She left two years later to pursue her own collection in Milan.

“It’s important to be open to one’s experiences and to absorb those influences,” Grantham said. “They are there for a beneficial reason.”

Grantham and her husband injected some personal details into the collection, such as a stylized bull’s horn as a logo, reflecting both of their astrological signs — Taurus. There are also references to the number seven on sweatshirts and jackets, a nod to the sum of the relevant components of the designer’s birth date on May 2.

Less superstitious are the prices, as pants and skirts range at wholesale from about $70 to $120, based on conversion from current exchange rates from the euro. Knits range from about $76 to $175 and coats and jackets from $161 to $323. Guidetti expects the women’s line to sell about 2,000 units this season and projects a growth to about 5,000 units for spring 2004, which would mean its first-year volume would likely top $1 million.