PARIS — ’Tis the season of the comeback.
This story first appeared in the June 25, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
After Jil Sander and Hedi Slimane, Veronique Branquinho is the latest designer to return to the ready-to-wear calendar after an absence of several years.
The Belgian designer is relaunching her brand in partnership with Italian clothing manufacturer Gibò Co. SpA, starting with a spring 2013 women’s rtw catwalk show during Paris Fashion Week in September.
Branquinho was forced to shutter her women’s and men’s lines at the height of the global economic crisis in 2009. Her last collection for both divisions was spring 2009.
“Gibò will focus on reestablishing the brand in quality stores around the world starting with ready-to-wear and shoes, followed in the future by accessories,” the company said.
The relationship is not a huge stretch for Branquinho, who has worked with Gibò’s subsidiary, Iris, since 2000 on her shoe collections, which were the only surviving segment of her line. But the designer welcomed having an industrial partner to back her development.
“Before, I had an independent company. I was responsible for everything,” she told WWD. “In this new situation, it feels so comfortable, because I’m only busy with the creative part.”
Branquinho burst onto 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.
The designer said her time off has given her a fresh perspective.
“When you have to start again, it’s not easy, but then once I started, it’s always been a very intuitive process, in a way, for me. I didn’t want to throw away everything that I did [in the past], but I also think I’ve been evolving as a person, and I hope you can see this also translated in my work,” she said.
Sources in Milan said Gibò took a stake in the Branquinho brand, as it had done with Viktor & Rolf before the design duo moved to Staff International.
Gibò chairman Franco Pené declined to comment on the specifics of the deal, but described the relationship with Branquinho as a “long-term partnership,” with plans to gradually introduce accessories and pre-collections.
“We’ve always appreciated and had faith in her,” said Pené. “She is very good at designing shoes, but this is not a shoe brand per se, like Christian Louboutin or Manolo Blahnik, for example. She was born with fashion, so we decided to take the development into our hands.”
Branquinho further bolstered her standing in accessories with a five-season stint as artistic director of luxury Belgian leather goods brand Delvaux, starting in 2009.
Her rtw line will be distributed selectively, and Pené said he was targeting 100 top clients with the first season. Priced as a designer line, the collection will nonetheless be competitive, with dresses, for example, wholesaling at an average of about 300 euros, or $380 at current exchange.
“These are no longer the times to go for over-the-top luxury prices, we must keep our feet on the ground,” said Pené.
Branquinho described her designs, second time around, as “a bit more adult,” though 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.
“I’ve always been a no-nonsense girl, I think. My approach is also like that and I think this is something people are looking for — honest things,” she explained.