By  on September 24, 2008

The once sleepy, low-profile Façonnable is starting to wake up.

With an eye on growth, the Nice, France-based traditional men’s and women’s collection has pumped up its ranks with new creative and executive talent. Eric Wright, formerly with Roberto Cavalli and Karl Lagerfeld, has been named artistic director, and Lance Isham, formerly Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.’s vice chairman, has been named as executive chairman. Both positions are new.

The appointments come on the heels of tapping Alberto Lavia as chief executive officer and president in July.

In an exclusive interview, Isham said Façonnable in January will open a U.S. headquarters and showroom in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center, where Façonnable has a 20,000-square-foot store on Fifth Avenue. The 21st floor of 600 Fifth Avenue has been leased. The purpose is to begin wholesaling to U.S. stores in the fall. Currently, only Nordstrom and Façonnable stores sell the collection in America.

Nordstrom last year sold Façonnable for $210 million to the M1 Group, a diversified family-owned company based in Beirut, Lebanon. Nordstrom bought the 58-year-old Façonnable in 2000 for $169 million, and started selling the collection exclusively in its stores in 1989. The brand has estimated sales of about $220 million.

In addition to the design and executive appointments, the company is stepping out on the retail front. Openings next year are set for Atlanta’s Lenox Square Mall; the Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale, Ariz.; San Francisco’s Union Square, and possibly Chicago. The South Coast Plaza store in Costa Mesa, Calif., is being remodeled.

Moreover, the collection is evolving, particularly the women’s side. “Façonnable is true men’s wear but always with a freshness and something special in the details and the colors,” Wright said. “We want to make the women’s collection more compatible to the men’s, with the same sensibilities based on the identity of the house itself.”

Wright will be responsible for the image and design of the men’s, women’s and accessories collections and will also have oversight of store design concepts and anything image-related, such as advertising and fashion shows. He will report to Lavia.

Wright began his career at KL by Karl Lagerfeld as studio director for all collections including accessories. He later worked in Paris for Karl Lagerfeld and Chloé, initially as the right hand ofLagerfeld on all lines before becoming design director for all fashion collections and image-related projects. Later, he became design director of Fendi and, in 2006,became the design director for Roberto Cavalli.

For Façonnable, Wright said he will be based in London and Monte Carlo, which is near the Nice headquarters.

Isham said as executive chairman of the Façonnable Group he takes on a full-time role as strategic partner to Lavia and the M1 Group. Previously, he was non-executive chairman and before that on the advisory board when Nordstrom owned Façonnable. He will be based in Nice.

Isham said Lavia’s plan is to transform Façonnable into a global brand. “I will be there to support him, and will be doing a lot of traveling. Asia is wide open. We don’t have any business in Japan, South Korea — really throughout the Pacific,” except for a licensed store in Taiwan and franchised stores in Vietnam and Australia.

“What we would like to do is open 20 locations over the next three to five years,” Isham said. “Since M1 bought Façonnable, we have done exhaustive research on the brand and we have a new concept for stores, and new concepts for labeling, advertising and print media.”

Isham, a 22-year Polo veteran, is credited with building Polo’s men’s wear business before turning his attention to the company’s European operations. He left the firm in March 2004.

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