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Petit Bateau Links With Lacroix, Paris Opera

A children’s wear brand, a French couturier and an opera house are the unexpected partners behind the latest high-street designer collaboration.

PARIS — A children’s wear brand, a French couturier and an opera house are the unexpected partners behind the latest high-street designer collaboration set to hit stores for the holidays.

Petit Bateau has confirmed it worked with Christian Lacroix and the Paris National Opera on a capsule collection scheduled to go on sale on Dec. 6. Consisting of four styles for women and two for children, it will be available in Petit Bateau stores and at the Opéra Garnier boutique in Paris, a concession run by Galeries Lafayette.

“We are the first brand to develop this kind of partnership with them,” said Patrick Pergament, chief executive officer of Petit Bateau.

Lacroix has pursued a thriving career designing exhibitions, hotels and stage costumes, including for the Paris opera, since the couture house that bears his name was shuttered and reduced to a licensing operation in 2009. He’s now at work on Balanchine’s “Le Palais de Cristal,” with music by Georges Bizet, premiering in May at the Opéra Bastille.

Lacroix told WWD that Petit Bateau is synonymous with a happy childhood, and he approached the collaboration with relish. The designer knew his line had to be “iconic,” so he created belted sailor-striped tops in classic navy-and-white and a specially developed version in pink, red and black.

Lacroix added a tulle petticoat to give balletic volume to a monochromic skirt, and used velvet ribbons as piping or bows for an extra feminine flourish on other items. The line is meant “for both mother and daughter,” he explained.

Prices range from 85 euros, or $112 at current exchange, for a women’s top to 250 euros, or $330, for an evening dress in draped striped jersey. The children’s items are priced at 50 euros, or $66, for a top and 70 euros, or $92, for a dress. The tag on the items states “Petit Bateau et Opéra National de Paris par Christian Lacroix.”

Christophe Tardieu, deputy director of the Paris Opera, said the collaboration was part of a push to develop products with the Opéra National de Paris logo, which he hopes to extend into the field of shoes, accessories and dancewear, among others.

“We are convinced the Opéra de Paris brand has global recognition and is therefore valuable and can be commercially viable, so we are very keen to develop it. At the same time, we have to move cautiously, step by step. Starting with Petit Bateau and Christian Lacroix was a guarantee of security and of great quality,” he said.

“If we do branch out into ballet shoes, leotards and dancewear, it is obvious that we have an enormous [potential] market overseas, given the reputation of our ballet,” Tardieu added.

In recent years, Petit Bateau has collaborated with contemporary brand Carven, vintage specialist Didier Ludot, upscale retailer 10 Corso Como and Japanese designer Tsumori Chisato.

“It’s absolutely brilliant to bring people like that into our traditional French factories, which are 120 years old, and for people to suddenly find themselves having to do things that are a million miles removed from the underwear and pajamas they normally produce. It’s a real electroshock for both sides,” said Pergament.

The partnerships are also designed to give Petit Bateau a stronger visibility overseas as it seeks to expand its international footprint.

“We are looking to conclude very important partnerships in key countries worldwide like China, Brazil and Russia, in particular,” Pergament added, noting that Petit Bateau aims to open stores through license agreements with local partners and to develop e-commerce overseas.

The executive declined to provide sales figures for the brand, merely saying it was performing better than competitors in France, its main market, where apparel sales fell 1.5 percent in the first seven months of 2013, according to revised figures released by the French Fashion Institute, or IFM.