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Vionnet Boutique Pays Homage to Founder

The one-story, 2,484-square-foot Milan store was unveiled with a soft opening earlier this month.

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MILAN — The first directly owned Vionnet boutique pays tribute to Madeleine Vionnet’s staples — geometric shapes contrasting with soft and more rounded ones and the designer’s masterful use of draping. The one-story, 2,484-square-foot unit, which was unveiled with a soft opening on Dec. 16 to be followed with an official event during Milan Fashion Week in February, also echoes the Art Deco movement with brass lamps reminiscent of the time when Vionnet was at her peak, in the Twenties. However, there is no trace of nostalgia in the sleek decor of the store, nor does the venue have a retro feel.

The walls are white, with no embellishment, and the space is airy and luminous, a quality further enhanced by large windows overlooking Milan’s Corso Monforte. The clothes are either displayed hanging on brass structures or in glass cases framed by hammered brass ribs. Brass is used throughout the store, also in a brushed version, as “it was a main element in the designer’s original perfume bottle — one of the first designer fragrances ever,” explained co-owner and chairman Matteo Marzotto during a tour of the boutique. Increasingly strong categories such as footwear, bags and jewelry are also prominently displayed.

Marzotto also noted how Vionnet’s iconic intarsia are reflected in the positioning of the floor’s marble slabs. “This marble that is not shiny, for a 3-D texture effect, which highlights the floors, enhancing the horizontal elements, versus cleaner vertical ones,” said Marzotto.

A crescent-shaped velvet sofa in a mossy green-brown shade stands out in a room that doubles as a private space as it can be entirely closed off. The atelier, which sits adjacent to the store and where seamstresses work on prototypes, is being expanded with another 1,836 square feet behind the boutique. “The [custom baby blue gown with red butterflies] Madonna wore [at the “W.E.” premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September] was made here,” said Marzotto proudly.

Compared to the original Vionnet store on Avenue Montaigne in Paris, which also featured the designer’s atelier, Marzotto said that the earlier venue was “more in line with the French opulent and stuccoed style in vogue at the time.” He noted that Milan’s unit was designed “with no need for an archistar,” but in accordance with new creative designers Barbara and Lucia Croce, the twin sisters who succeeded Rodolfo Paglialunga in October.

The entrepreneur invested 350,000 euros, or $458,168 at current exchange, in the store, which is situated in the same expansive, historic building that houses the brand’s headquarters. Marzotto said he expects the boutique to generate sales of between 1.8 million and 2 million euros, or $2.3 million and $2.6 million, in two years. “In my book of dreams, I would like a store in Paris or New York next year,” he said.

The Milan location is the first directly owned Vionnet store, following a franchised unit that opened in Kuwait City in February. Underscoring the strength of retail and the commitment to the brand, Marzotto said he is in talks to open four corners in South East Asia.

Russia is Vionnet’s main market, he said. He also noted the increasing relevance of sales online, where the brand is available on Net-a-porter.com and Mytheresa.com, for example.

Marzotto, who bought the house of Vionnet in 2009 with longtime friend and Marni chief executive officer Gianni Castiglioni, expects sales to reach more than 7 million euros, or $9.2 million, in 2011.

Up next, Vionnet will show its pre-fall collection during Paris Couture Week in January for the first time.

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