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This story first appeared in the February 26, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

LONDON — There’s nothing like a bit of rivalry to get a designer’s juices pumping — and Roland Mouret is no exception.

The French designer, who has been showing his collection at the Paris couture since 2007, is returning to the ready-to-wear calendar.

“Showing during couture was a great start, and I was able to express my point of view and vision. But my work is ready-to-wear, and I was feeling frustrated not showing alongside the competition. As a designer, you always need to be seeing what else is out there,” he said.

Mouret already pushed his production cycle forward to ensure that deliveries of his RM by Roland Mouret collection arrived in stores as early as possible. It made sense, he said at the time, to show in January and July.

His deliveries are still quite early compared with those of his competitors. The fall collection has already been sold, and will begin arriving on the shop floor three months after the Paris show. His spring 2010 collection will be in stores even earlier — two months after his show. “That is the meaning of luxury to me, being able to deliver the clothes to my customers as quickly as possible after the show,” he said.

Mouret, who has also done one-off projects with Net-a-porter.com, said he has some new Internet-related ideas on tap for the coming year. And he has been pushing into new markets in the Middle East and Europe as the recession begins to bite.

“We’ve been lucky so far with new independent stores and new markets. The debate today is not about offering expensive clothes or cheap ones,” he said. “It’s whether your clothes are relevant — or not.”

— Samantha Conti


PARIS — When Romano Ricci created the fragrance brand Juliette Has a Gun three years ago, giving his scents a fashion incarnation was already percolating in the back of his mind.

As the great grandson of Nina Ricci, fashion runs in his blood. But it took an agreement of like minds — enter his sister Antina, who was working in the studio of Kenzo Takada — for Romano to realize the dream.

The siblings are launching their first Juliette Has a Gun ready-to-wear collection during the Paris shows. Romano, 30, and Antina, 29, will present about a dozen looks by appointment in a showroom at 16 Place Vendôme.

The designers explained the inspiration for the fashion came from Romano’s fragrances, which he creates with different kinds of women in mind, from the sensual to aggressive.

“I always saw the brand as a universe,” said Romano, who often wears a fedora. “I’ve always considered my Juliette as very chic.”

The duo worked with a men’s suit pattern cutter to get the tailored dresses just right. They gravitated to fabrics like satin and grain de poudre, and offset the monochromatic black and blue pieces with red or white piping.

“Everything is very structured,” Antina said. “When a girl puts on the dress, we want her to feel as if she were assuming a role that is both romantic and strong.”

The Riccis said they hoped to keep the brand niche and exclusive for the moment, much like Romano’s fragrances, which are carried in stores such as Holt Renfrew and Selfridges.

“It would be great to keep it to about 30 stores in the world,” said Romano. “After all, everything is handmade in Paris.”

— Robert Murphy


MILAN — One thing Marco Zanini didn’t do before putting pencil to sketch pad for his first Rochas collection was dip into the company’s archive. The storied French house, founded in the Thirties by Marcel Rochas, doesn’t have one.

Still, Zanini knew exactly what mood he wanted to convey with his first outing on March 5 during Paris Fashion Week.

“Although the house doesn’t have an archive, there’s enough material around the world that shows what Rochas was known for. What transported me was the quality and femininity the brand brings to mind,” said Zanini, during an interview in Gibò’s Milan offices, one of the many pit stops he makes during his frequent travels between the Italian fashion capital, Paris and Florence, where Gibò’s production is based.

The former Halston designer joined Rochas last October after its owner Procter & Gamble Co. inked a global licensing agreement with Gibò Co. Spa to manufacture and distribute its ready-to-wear. The money-losing fashion house, historically known for feminine silhouettes and a corset known as the guepiere, was shuttered in 2006; at the time, Olivier Theyskens was the designer.

Steering clear of retro, Zanini, his lanky figure clad in a gray sweater and jeans, tapped into the sensuality of French women, especially the one mastered by Nouvelle Vague, or New Wave, actresses like Anna Karina. “I was very fascinated by their freedom and the carefree look that is very French,” said Zanini.

The price list was slashed by 30 percent compared with Theyskens’ days because Franco Penè, chief executive officer at Gibò, wants Rochas prices to be similar to Prada. For distribution, the plan is to start with 70 select points of sales worldwide to reach a maximum of 200.

Wholesale prices for coats run from 462 euros ($590 at current exchange) to 923 euros ($ 1,177); pants and skirts range from 154 euros ($197) to 269 euros ($343), while knitwear goes from 162 euros ($206) to 385 euros ($491).

Without committing to a time frame in adverse market conditions, Penè said he views the start up as a project that should reach at least 10 million euros, or $12.8 million, in sales to make it worthwhile.

But both Penè and Stephane Lemonnier, fashion manager at Rochas, agree they don’t want the new project to be another buzz-generating, status brand.

“We need to focus on value for money and not just be about a logo,” said Lemonnier.

To allow a better feel for the clothes, Zanini opted for a presentation at the Galerie Yvon Lambert in lieu of the runway.

The collection comprises 200 pieces and is divided among day, cocktail and evening in a moody palette of ivory, dusty pinks, bottle green, aqua, taupe, black and red.

The designer describes it as “soft and feminine” with delicate fabrics and lots of hand applications such as beading, ruching and inner silk ribbons that add a precious element to each confection.

Zanini’s seductress wears slim skirts with silk linings that reveal a lace trim when she sits down. The anchor piece of her closet is the silk slip, often cut on the bias, and with piping around the bust. “To me a slip is the most feminine and versatile garment,” said Zanini, who styles it with anything from a buttonless camel coat to a bright red trenchcoat.

Savvy tailoring is best represented by a group of stovepipe trousers and sharply tailored, nipped jackets.

Lightness characterizes the cocktail and evening segment with nary a long dress in sight — Zanini contends short is more modern. There are sheer dresses over slips and styles made with three differently textured layers of tulle. The finishing touches are accessories, such as a rigid frame handbag in croc and calfskin, berets, gloves and silk midthigh socks.

— Alessandra Ilari


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