PARIS — Veronique Branquinho and Onward Luxury said Monday they are parting ways, with immediate effect.
“Veronique Branquinho has decided to put her namesake label on hiatus, with the [fall 2017] show being its last for now,” they said jointly in a statement.
“I would like to thank Franco Penè and the Onward Luxury Group team for giving me the opportunity to express my vision for the past five years,” said Branquinho in the statement, referring to the chairman of Gibò Group, a subsidiary of Onward Holdings.
Reached by WWD by telephone on Monday, the designer declined to comment further.
Penè told WWD that it was by “mutual decision” to suspend the brand in light of challenging times.
“Everything is so difficult because fashion is changing,” said Penè. “Distribution is changing: You can see how e-commerce is growing, physical distribution is suffering, the big brands are restructuring their retail operations. We have see now, buy now. It’s a world that is completely different from a few years ago.”
And that can be a real hurdle for small brands. Penè declined to say what revenues Veronique Branquinho – which has about 50 doors selling its fashion and a similar number retailing its shoes – generated on an annual basis.
“In the end the idea is to take a hiatus and see what the future brings,” said the executive.
One of Antwerp’s fashion stars, Branquinho burst on to the international fashion scene in the late Nineties alongside a pack of other Belgian talents, including Raf Simons, Olivier Theyskens and A.F. Vandevorst. Her first collection of billowing skirts and lacy sweaters made headlines and attracted the attention of top stores around the world.
A graduate of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Branquinho was a guest designer at the Pitti Uomo trade show in Florence in 2004, a year after she launched her men’s collection. She has also designed for Ruffo Research, the 3 Suisses catalogue in France as well as costumes for theater and movies. Branquinho was the subject of a 10-year retrospective at Antwerp’s MoMu fashion museum in 2008.
This is not the first time her label has been put on pause.
In May 2009, she said she would close her 11-year-old fashion house. The designer’s company, James NV, which was majority owned by Branquinho, had been put in court-appointed liquidation for a three-month period. Citing its intent to cease all operations, James NV blamed a sharp drop in orders for its fall 2009 collections and a plethora of canceled orders and non-payments for the past spring season.
Branquinho, which counted about 50 wholesale clients, operated one store in Antwerp.
Yet even more established Belgians such as Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten weathered some tough times, especially in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in America and the formation of Europe’s big luxury groups. Fashion had also swung away from their strong suits — tailoring and sobriety — in favor of feminine frills and bling.
In 2009, Branquinho began a five-season stint as artistic director of luxury Belgian leather goods brand Delvaux. She served as a professor at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, as well.
Then in 2012, Branquinho said she was returning to the ready-to-wear calendar after an absence of three years. She relaunched her brand in partnership with Italian clothing manufacturer Gibò Co. starting with the spring 2013 women’s rtw catwalk show during Paris Fashion Week that September.
Gibò said it would “focus on reestablishing the brand in quality stores around the world, starting with rtw and shoes, followed in the future by accessories.”
The relationship wasn’t a huge stretch for Branquinho, who had worked with Gibò’s subsidiary, Iris, since 2000 on her shoe collection, which was the only surviving segment of her line.
At the time, sources in Milan said Gibò took a stake in the Branquinho brand, but company executives declined comment on specifics of the deal, which was described as a “long-term partnership.”
Penè reiterated on Monday that theirs was a partnership, and that Branquinho maintains the right to her namesake label.
In 2013, Branquinho described her designs, the second time around, as “a bit more adult,” although she said the economic crisis, and the ascent of a new generation of female designers like Phoebe Philo, had not particularly influenced her creative decisions.
Onward Holdings’ other apparel-related companies include Jil Sander, Onward Kashiyama, Joseph and J. Press.
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