By  on March 20, 2013

NICE, France — Façonnable is planning to celebrate the opening of its new boutique in Bellevue, Wash., today as it unveils the new course of the brand under artistic director Julian Neale.

Across from Lake Washington, the directly operated 3,500-square-foot unit, modeled after a new store concept, is located at upscale shopping center Bellevue Collection. The new store blueprint is fashioned after a house on the French Riviera, with striped awnings and facades, a sea-blue color palette and an outdoorsy feel. Shelves come in bleached oak, and wood planks embellish the ceiling.

“For the past 12 months, we’ve worked with higher end and more sophisticated materials and details, expanding the lifestyle component of the label, our Mediterranean story reminiscent of [Pablo] Picasso, [Brigitte] Bardot and the coast from Monaco to Saint-Tropez,” said chief executive officer Moustapha El-Solh at the company’s headquarters here. The U.S. and Europe account for 70 percent of company sales, which last year totaled almost 170 million euros, or $217.6 million at average exchange. El-Solh said his goal is to reach revenues of 300 million euros, or $391 million at current exchange, in two years, through global expansion and investments in retail.

In the U.S., Façonnable has long been one of the key brands at Nordstrom, which previously owned it. “We are looking at our positioning in American department stores, which also include Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York, raising our standing and location placement within,” said El-Solh. In the U.S., Façonnable has boutiques in San Francisco; Beverly Hills; Costa Mesa, Calif.; Denver; Aventura, Fla.; Coral Gables, Fla.; New York; Atlanta, and Dallas.

El-Solh noted that the strong performance in the Florida stores is traction for business in Latin America, singling out Mexico and Venezuela as solid markets. “Customers in those areas know about the brand, relate the collection to a lifestyle and are educated and demanding,” he said, noting that there are plans to open directly operated stores in Latin America. A unit was opened in January at the airport in Panama. Three stores exist in Chile and, through a partner in Peru, the company is finalizing locations in the region. A new store will open in Mexico this year and El-Solh is looking at directly entering Brazil.

While admitting to a general lackluster economy and “more cautious” growth in emerging markets, the executive remains confident about  Façonnable’s untapped potential. “Our growth is exceeding our expectations, while we remain attentive to capital expenditures,” said El-Solh.

He is also concentrating on expanding in emerging countries, which today account for 30 percent of revenues. In 2013, Façonnable will directly roll out units in four cities in China: in April, at the Takashimaya Mall in Shanghai; in June, with a flagship in Chengdu and a freestanding store at the Sanya island resort, considered China’s Saint-Tropez, and a shop-in-shop at Beijing’s Galeries Lafayette in September.

Elsewhere, a unit will open in Beirut in May and, with a new Russian partner, two boutiques and one duty-free unit will open in Russia in 2013.

The brand also is moving into smaller countries, with stores in Lithuania and Latvia opening in December last year, as well as in Dubai’s luxury shopping Mall of the Emirates.

The company currently has 34 directly operated stores and 37 franchised units. The brand is available at about 800 multibrand stores globally. Retail accounts for 55 percent of sales, but the company has plans to expand this share through its new bolstered store network.

Neale, who was previously creative director at Rena Lange and whose first collections for Façonnable bowed for pre-fall 2012 for both men and women, said that, “like with many brands, they get to a mature point, and they have to go forward to maintain existing customers and attract new ones at the same time.

Façonnable had gone to sleep and needed to return to its Monte Carlo sensibility; it’s a happy sunshine brand. I felt it was a shame that its story wasn’t being told in an honest way.”

Façonnable, founded in 1950 by Jean Goldberg, reached its peak in the Sixties, and became known in the Eighties for its fun, colorful shirts. Lebanon-based M1 Group acquired the brand in 2007.

Neale, who was born in Turkey and raised in Hong Kong, compared clothes to “friends you rely on, spending time with them like with people. You keep your friends, don’t you? With clothes it’s the same, it’s about collecting.”

Believing that seasonal collections are an old-fashioned concept, Neale opts for feel-good and comfortable designs, superb fabrics in sun-bleached, light hues.

“Dressing is not only a visual activity, it’s tactile, and it’s about how you feel. The industry is so much about how other people perceive you, there’s so much insecurity, but you must be true to yourself,” said the designer.

His fall collection for men ranges from cozy hand-knit or reversible cable sweaters to cashmere parkas, poplin shirts with a tweed brushed effect, soft corduroy jackets and chino velvet pants. “Casual doesn’t have to be casual and formal doesn’t have to be formal — I don’t think that way,” he said. Façonnable’s trademark stripes pepper a number of outfits, sometimes as tie prints. The more sophisticated Sartorial and Atelier collections made in Italy are also part of the offer.

Neale said there is room to “experiment more” with women’s for the brand, as the division is less steeped in history.  “The Façonnable woman borrows from the boys, it’s tomboyish and younger,” said Neale, showing a selection of striped silk wrap dresses, printed silk pajama shirts and a wool and cotton coat with a knit back. 

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