Vince Names Natalie Ratabesi Creative Director

She begins June 16 and will relocate from Milan to the contemporary sportswear firm's design studio in Los Angeles.

Natalie Ratabesi, who stepped down as creative director of Philosophy last month, has been tapped as creative director of women’s design at Vince, the contemporary sportswear firm.

This story first appeared in the June 5, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

She begins June 16 and will relocate from Milan to Vince’s design studio in Los Angeles.

Ratabesi, 35, will have creative direction over all women’s categories including ready-to-wear and accessories. Vince men’s wear will continue to be led by Nicole Wiesmann, vice president of men’s design, who joined the company in September. Both roles are overseen by Karin Gregersen, president and chief creative officer, who remains responsible for all of Vince’s creative functions including design, merchandising and marketing, as well as the brand’s wholesale business.

Ratabesi’s initial input will be seen in the women’s pre-fall 2015 season.

“[Natalie] has a very modern sensibility, which is very close to the Vince DNA and core value,” said Gregersen. “She really has a very sophisticated design sensibility. As we increase and elevate our fashion point of view, she’s such a critical part of this process for us,” said Gregersen. She described Ratabesi’s designs as “effortless.”

“She creates silhouettes that are modern, understated and cool and understands our neutral, rich color palette….I think she’ll really leverage our brand DNA,” said Gregersen.

Prior to becoming creative director of Philosophy in October 2012, Ratabesi held key design roles at houses including Christian Dior under John Galliano, Oscar de la Renta, Gucci and Ralph Lauren, where she did two tours and became senior creative director. She graduated with a fashion degree from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London in 2000.

Last October, Doo-Ri Chung, Vince’s creative director, resigned from her position to return to New York. She had been in the role since January 2013 and worked on the fall, holiday and spring 2014 Vince collections. After Chung’s resignation, Gregersen added the role of chief creative officer.

Jill Granoff, chairman and chief executive officer of Vince, stressed the importance of the women’s business, which accounts for 85 percent of the company’s sales. “As we continue to become a global lifestyle brand, we felt it was really important to have a women’s creative director who can unify all the women’s categories, and that includes both ready-to-wear and accessories, under a singular vision. Her appointment really fulfills the needs to have someone who can be full-time in L.A. and provide leadership to the women’s design teams under the continuing guidance of Karin.”

Reached for comment in Milan, Ratabesi said she made the decision to take the Vince position after having several meetings with Gregersen and Granoff. “I just loved the excitement they had when they talked about this brand — their growth and how they want to take it to another level,” she said. She said she was attracted to the opportunity to return to a large, established brand investing so much in growth. Vince, which generated $288.2 million in net sales in fiscal 2013, went public last November.

Ratabesi said her taste level and the way she likes women to dress is very similar to the Vince aesthetic. “There’s something about being understated, and something not too over the top. I just love women to look beautiful, chic, timeless, sophisticated and easy. If you feel comfortable in your clothes, you’re more confident as a woman,” she said.

Thinking of herself as a gypsy, Ratabesi said she’s looking forward to living in L.A. “I left home at 17. I lived four years in London, almost four in Paris, I moved to New York City in January 2004 until September 2012, and in that time I spent a year in Rome, and from September 2012 until now in Milan. Right now I feel there’s a new energy in L.A. A lot of my friends are moving there, a lot of stylists that I know,” said Ratabesi, who will relocate with her husband and one-year-old daughter.

Ratabesi was tapped as creative director of Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti in October 2012, and the designer’s first collection for the brand bowed for the fall 2013 season. This was the first time Alberta Ferretti had delegated the direction of the Philosophy brand entirely to another designer, with the intention to further develop the brand in an independent way and differentiate it from the signature brand. In May, Marcello Tassinari, managing director and chief financial officer of Aeffe SpA, the parent firm, said that Philosophy’s performance “was negative compared to the other brands.” Without elaborating, he said the company was “taking action” to fine-tune and improve the brand’s development. “We hired Natalie Ratabesi to raise the positioning of the brand and to have its own autonomy. There are changes taking place,” he said.

On Monday, WWD reported that Ratabesi was replaced at Philosophy by an in-house team which will present in September. A market source said Aeffe probably gave Ratabesi contradictory guidelines and didn’t really let her do her own thing, and she wasn’t that happy in Milan.