By  on October 22, 2007

PARIS — Cacharel, known for its spirited contemporary sportswear, has replaced one London designer couple with another.

After a seven-year collaboration with Suzanne Clements and Inacio Ribeiro, which ended in June, the house has hired Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto as its new artistic directors.

The couple, who design the Eley Kishimoto line, will begin at the house immediately, with a first collection scheduled for fall 2008.

"We're extremely excited," said Eley, 39, Friday. "We are naturally drawn to the brand."

In many ways, the house's newest collaboration is in the spirit of its last one. Like Clements and Ribeiro, Eley and Kishimoto, who is 42, are based in London and known for their funky, colorful designs. But Eley said he and his partner, who will now also work in Paris, hope to cleave closer to Cacharel's roots. Jean Bousquet, who founded the house in 1962, made the brand synonymous with easy, energetic print-driven collections.

"Eley and Kishimoto are perfect for us," said Philippe Cardon, Cacharel's new chief executive officer, who arrived just a few weeks ago. "They have the house's spirit in their blood."

Indeed, Eley and Kishimoto are best known for their print designs and fabric development, talents they have lent over the years to the likes of Alexander McQueen and Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton. They launched their fashion label in the mid-Nineties and continue to show in London. At present, they have partnerships with Mitsui for a line of licensed products in Japan, and they also work with Ratti, the Italian textile company, on textile design.

"We have a lot of sympathy for Cacharel," said Kishimoto. "We want it to be fresh and go back to its roots. It should be joyful, but not overly flamboyant."

"Our own collections are more aggressive and confrontational than what we believe Cacharel should be," added Eley. "We think Cacharel should have a sophisticated French spirit, but be entirely approachable and young."

Eley said it has yet to be determined whether he and Kishimoto will show their Cacharel collections on the runway or in a showroom presentation. In any case, their arrival seems to signal Bousquet's continued commitment to grow the house. He initially revved things up when he hired Clements and Ribeiro, whose first collections for the company generated excitement. But more recently, the collections lost much of their initial pep while at the same time the house had trouble finding the right marketing and pricing strategy.Earlier this fall, Bousquet inked a licensing deal with B2X, the Jersey City trading company, to exclusively distribute Cacharel's women's, men's and children's apparel and accessories in the United States and Canada. The house has had trouble generating longstanding success in those markets in the past.

Meanwhile, Bousquet has bolstered the brand at home. He opened two new women's stores in Paris recently and last week he opened a new men's store, called La Chemiserie. He said he hoped to open another 20 men's stores in France over the next few years.

Cacharel had revenues last year of around $50 million.

Eley and Kishimoto replace Esther Angula, who briefly served as artistic director after Clements and Ribeiro left in June.

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