MILAN — Dondup cofounder and creative designer Manuela Mariotti has exited the brand after 18 years at the helm, perhaps signaling increased pressure as the company expands globally and shifts to a more managerial structure under the ownership of an international holding company. Mariotti’s departure follows that of Marni cofounder Consuelo Castiglioni in October, in the wake of OTB’s acquisition of the brand in 2015 — an exit that also raised questions about the evolution of a niche brand into a more global one.
“It has been a thrilling experience that has enabled me to grow as a creative and as a woman,” said Mariotti, thanking her team, expected to stay put and provide continuity. “In all these years I have been able to remain true to my idea of fashion. Together we have created a brand with a strong, coherent, recognizable identity.”
The company Mariotti founded with Massimo Berloni is controlled by L Catterton and, in September, former Valentino chairman Matteo Marzotto invested in Dondup, becoming its president. Stakes in Dondup were first acquired by the European arm of L Capital in 2009 and then by L Capital Asia in 2015 (L Capital is now part of L Catterton).
Marco Casoni, chief executive officer of Dondup, emphasized Mariotti’s style, which “turned Dondup into a unique brand,” thanking her “for having conveyed its values to the max and for having conceived and drawn a path of success. On our part, we will continue energetically and enthusiastically along this path together with the creative team and the management, confident that we will achieve important goals while creating value for our stakeholders, especially at an international level.”
In February, at the brand’s women’s presentation, which showed an evolution from its core denim component, Marzotto said the company is investing in expanding outside of Italy, especially in Asia, and is starting an online store.
Mariotti had focused on experimentation and craftsmanship, and the collection reflected her own personal tastes. Upon the acquisition in September, Marzotto said Dondup was “one of the very few brands in this segment and positioning that is so recognizable.” Andrea Ottaviano, partner at L Catterton, expressed his belief in the brand and “the great potential of its style content on global markets.”
Arcadia Srl, Dondup’s parent company, has sales of about 60 million euros, or $64.7 million, and an earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization margin of 20 percent.
In September, Casoni, placing the brand in the contemporary premium sector, said the company aims to reach sales of around 90 million euros, or $101.1 million, in 2020.
Dondup is based in Fossombrone, in Italy’s Marche region, and relies on a pipeline spanning from washes to finishings.
The collection is available at around 600 multibrand stores. Italy accounts for 80 percent of sales. A flagship opened in September during Milan Fashion Week in Via Spiga.
Women’s wear accounts for 50 percent of sales.