By  on January 7, 2008

NEW YORK — Pierre-Henri Mattout, the 34-year-old lead designer for Dormeuil, a French fabric house-cum-luxury-tailored-clothing maker, is jumping ship to head up creative direction for Victorinox Swiss Army’s men’s and women’s collections.

The choice could mark a significant shift for the brand that has traditionally straddled the designer and performance markets. Mattout, whose resumé includes stints at Christian Dior, where he was part of the men’s wear design team, brings a distinctly European and designer perspective to the active luxury brand. His own eponymous men’s wear line, launched in 1998, shows in conjunction with the Paris men’s collections, and has a cult following abroad. The Pierre-Henri Mattout collection, which is marked by energetic prints and colors, was born out of a capsule collection of woven shirts the Frenchman created for Christian Lacroix.

Not exactly the stuff of pocket knives. But Johanne Siff, president of Victorinox, said Mattout was hired to evolve the brand, rather than reinvent it. “He’s versatile enough to work with the foundation of our existing collections and build upon them,” she said. “We’re hoping he will elevate the product from a sourcing perspective [as well as in] silhouette.” However, the brand will be pushing into the designer market via a men’s capsule collection Mattout will design for spring 2009. According to Siff, that 35-piece collection will introduce a greater fashion perspective and will be launched at the company’s flagships and wholesaled to select accounts. “It will uphold the core idea of beauty and utility,” said Siff.

Mattout, who could not be reached for comment by presstime, replaces Christopher Cox, who left Victorinox last November to pursue other interests after two years with the company. Siff said the firm has been searching for his replacement for the last six months.

Mattout will continue to produce his own line, Siff said, although Victorinox will be his top priority. The designer will also relocate from Paris to New York and will head a team of 18 at the company’s Spring Street studio in Manhattan. His first men’s and women’s collections will be for the spring/summer 2009 season.

While the Frenchman doesn’t officially start until February, he’s already making his mark on the brand, consulting on marketing materials, casting and styling for the spring/summer 2008 ad campaign and fall/winter 2008 look book. He will also join the Victorinox team at Pitti Uomo this week, where he will be formally introduced to the market.

Mattout’s cachet and experience in Europe dovetail with the brand’s plans for expansion abroad, which include a flagship in London to open this year, and possible units in Paris and Zurich within the next four years. Siff said the company is also looking at opening doors in San Francisco and Chicago.

The new creative director will also be part of Victorinox’s push for cohesive branding across all of the company’s divisions, which include apparel, watches and tools. Mattout will sit on a newly minted global brand committee along with other division executives in order, according to Siff, to “strengthen competencies across all product categories and develop integrated brand management.”

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