MILAN — Façonnable has named Julian Neale as its new artistic director.
This story first appeared in the December 14, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Neale was previously creative director at Rena Lange, and his first collections for the Nice, France-based brand will bow for pre-fall 2012 for both men and women, and for men’s fall 2012 in January at Pitti Uomo, the international trade exhibition held in Florence.
Prior to Neale’s appointment, the brand was designed by a team, as former creative director Eric Wright resigned in January 2010 without being replaced.
“Very few people realize how much heritage the brand has,” said Neale of Façonnable, which was founded in 1950 and reached its peak in the Sixties, epitomized by Brigitte Bardot’s Cote d’Azur easy, yet chic style, and then crystallized in the Eighties with its fun, colorful shirts. “It’s not a vintage brand, it’s not about harking back to the 1950s or 1960s, it’s about the idea of continuity from one generation to the next, from father to son,” said Neale. “The challenge is to define and make clear what we own — so many different icons, which we should take, but also re-create new ones that feel right and relevant today. The brand presents what people love — the holiday effect, a relaxed mood, cocktails on the beach, the stereotypical idea of the Cote d’Azur.”
Owned by Lebanon-based M1 Group, Façonnable is currently expanding globally and growing its women’s business alongside its core men’s division. Born in Turkey and raised in Hong Kong, Neale has a background in both categories, as, prior to Rena Lange, he launched a men’s wear license with Isetan for the French brand Victoire; built his own lifestyle collection, Permanent Vacation, and worked on women’s wear as a designer at Celine during the Michael Kors era.
“It’s not about gender, but taste level,” said Neale about tying both divisions together for a comprehensive line that targets “a free-spirited, aspirational couple with a sense of freedom. And being half-Turkish, I’ve always been inspired by the Mediterranean.”
For pre-fall, Neale channeled “the unfettered, utilitarian elegance” of the Legionnaires, or the French Foreign Legion, the French region of the Camargue and the 1996 movie “The English Patient.” The designer said he added a “romantic, softer touch on a familiar military theme,” showing a field jacket in washed ink-red with a baby pink military shirt, for example. “Façonnable is a brand that should make people happy. It has a positive message, not complicated or pretentious, and we should go back to what is essential, not fall off the track, because if we are honest and believable, we are halfway there,” said Neale. “In this economy, companies are scrambling, trying hard to out-compete, but we are what we are and it doesn’t have to be complicated. I like that Façonnable is like a friend, familiar and trustworthy. It’s not intimidating and it’s consistent.”
“Julian brings not only a fresh point of view, but invaluable design studio experience,” said Maher Mikati, chief executive officer of M1 Fashion. “He’s an innovative designer who is also a pragmatist and that means he implicitly understands how to balance trend-driven design with timeless elegance. He will help a new generation discover the brand by guiding Façonnable into the next decade without ever losing sight of its invaluable heritage.”
As reported earlier this month, Lance Isham is leaving his post as ceo of Façonnable, effective Dec. 31, and will be succeeded by Moustapha El-Solh.