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PARIS — Isabel Marant is having a banner year, with a new home in Paris and six boutiques opening worldwide.
This story first appeared in the March 2, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The French designer and her team will soon move from cramped offices in the east of Paris to new headquarters off the central Place des Victoires, making the jump from a 7,500-square-foot space to a 21,500-square-foot office to accommodate her fast-growing label’s expansion.
The Bohemian-chic brand, beloved of celebrities like Kirsten Dunst and Rachel Bilson, will open stores in Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Paris, London and Los Angeles, virtually doubling the number of stand-alone units worldwide to 14 by yearend.
But Marant, whose designs have spawned scores of high-street copies, says it is all part of her carefully controlled growth plan.
“I have no desire to become a multinational,” the designer, wearing a varsity-style sweatshirt with leopard-print pants and high-top wedge sneakers, told WWD over lunch in a lively restaurant in the Bastille area of eastern Paris. “Our development is very targeted, very precise, with a clear idea of where we want to open boutiques and in which geographical regions we want to be present.”
With some 670 points of sale worldwide, Isabel Marant posted wholesale revenues of 62 million euros, or $82.9 million at current exchange, in 2011, up 44 percent versus the previous year, according to Sophie Duruflé, the brand’s managing director.
The main Isabel Marant line accounted for 40 percent of that total, with the lower-priced Etoile line making up 42 percent, and shoes, accessories and jewelry 18 percent. France now represents just 20 percent of sales, down from 50 percent three years ago, with the European Union accounting for 37 percent and non-EU countries 43 percent.
“Our revenues are skyrocketing,” said Duruflé, noting that the brand has gained 190 points of sale since summer 2010. “We get a lot of inquiries from retailers, but we prefer not to add too many at once, because it’s already a lot to handle.”
Accessories, in particular, are in hot demand, with Marant regularly producing “It” items like last season’s suede boots wrapped with silver chains. But the designer does not plan to significantly expand her accessories offerings, noting that her husband — leather goods designer Jérôme Dreyfuss — is the handbag honcho in the family.
“I have an issue with brands pursuing growth through the development of loads of ancillary products,” she said. “I need to do things with conviction. I’ve been asked 50,000 times to produce a scent, but I don’t like perfume, it’s not something that comes to me naturally. I want to dedicate myself fully to things I truly believe in.”
She cites as an example the limited edition watch made with ethical gold that will go on sale today at her stores on Rue Jacob and Rue de Saintonge in Paris to coincide with her catwalk show. Inspired by her late father’s watch, which Marant wears for good luck, the timepiece retails for 7,140 euros, or $9,600.
Nonetheless, Marant is evolving. The designer will open a fourth Paris store in the tony 16th arrondissement in August, across town from the hip eastern Paris enclave that has become synonymous with her artfully nonchalant style.
The Paris store, like the London and Los Angeles boutiques, will be directly managed by the brand, while the three planned stores in Asia are partnerships with local firms.
Among Duruflé and Marant’s other top priorities are developing the Russian and Middle Eastern markets, and launching an e-commerce site.
“My dream is to continue being as successful as we are today, and to be able to continue developing the brand the way we are developing it now, slowly but surely — serenely,” Marant said.