PARIS — In September, Paris-based Cifonelli, whose roots go back to 1880, will launch its first ready-to-wear collection, combining the house’s know-how — a mix of English, French and Italian influences — and a flurry of newly designed pre-measured cuts.
This story first appeared in the June 13, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“My cousin and I have been creating bespoke for the past 20 years, and we want to give new impetus to our house,” Lorenzo Cifonelli, who runs the family-owned workshop with his cousin Massimo as part of the fourth generation, told WWD. But he said: “Our aim is not to copy other fashion brands, it’s to give a new, more modern vision to our savoir faire.”
Cifonelli said he spent six months researching the right craftsmen and personally taught a small Italian factory how to construct the “Cifonelli shoulder,” a distinct, inward, slightly roped piece. “In fact, our entire atelier contributed to the process,” he said, noting that the rtw line would carry “many of the couture features of our bespoke work.”
A sharp, fitted silhouette, generous lapels and extra-high armholes for maximum movement are all part of the picture. The suits will retail from 2,900 euros, or $3,947 at current exchange, to 3,900 euros, or $5,308.
Cifonelli said a “quest for excellence in the cut and fit has been favored over seeking a specific fashion standpoint. We have no intention of ever becoming a brand, but to stay a family with a passion for the product and its quality.”
The spring collection’s 16 looks, which will be shown alongside a fall lineup for immediate sale, will feature three-piece suits with double-breasted vests, which, according to Cifonelli, are seeing a comeback, as well as some casual pieces including jeans made from a cashmere-cotton blend, along with the house’s signature travel jacket.
Targeting a younger customer, aged between 25 and 40 years old with a cosmopolitan background, hues for spring riff off the house’s Italian roots via shades of light gray that evoke Portofino stones, along with coral and lavender contrasted with deep blues and ice white harkening back to Capri’s colorful landscape. Exclusive collaborations with Japanese and Tibetan textile makers are expected to enrich the collection.
To oversee the house’s new strategy, the Cifonellis hired a team of nine executives and consultants coming from Ermenegildo Zegna, Yves Saint Laurent, Loewe and Inditex to lend their commercial and creative experience to the company.
Backed by two anonymous French family funds, which according to Cifonelli provided “substantial investment,” the house brought a new “head of style” on board: John Vizzone, the former senior vice president of Ralph Lauren’s Purple and Black Labels, to oversee the rtw collection. Lorenzo and Massimo Cifonelli remain creative directors.
The rtw line will also feature a small range of accessories, including shoes made in Italy and leather goods such as a weekender and a portfolio, handcrafted in mostly Spanish workshops. For this task, Cifonelli tapped accessories designer Eric Gallais, previously with Loewe and Yves Saint Laurent.
The new line, which the master tailor is slated to reveal in a private presentation at its bespoke atelier on June 28 to coincide with Paris Fashion Week, will initially be available in the two Cifonelli-owned stores — on Rue Marbeuf and another Parisian location due to open by year-end — as well as no more than 10 wholesale partners.
Cifonelli said that, in order to ensure exclusivity, the wholesale accounts could grow to a maximum number of 50 in the long-term, while the store count is ultimately expected to increase to 10.