PARIS — Ath-leisure isn’t the only game in town.

This story first appeared in the November 11, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Bringing a couture edge to the premium denim world, Seven For All Mankind has tapped Paris-based designer Giambattista Valli for a spring collaboration that includes high-waisted jeans and dressy T-shirts in lipstick shades and animal prints.

The co-branded collection is slated to be delivered in two installments in mid-February and in May to freestanding Seven For All Mankind stores and select wholesale doors, bringing Valli’s style to a wider audience — and at a more democratic price point — and some fashion excitement to the 14-year-old California-based firm, a division of VF Corp.

“It’s an opportunity to offer a unique, fresh point of view to our customer,” said Barry Miguel, president of Seven For All Mankind. “Mr. Valli resonates with an international audience. He’s a leader right now in his segment if you think about the new world of designer and couture.”

Valli said in Milan on Monday that he wanted to bring “a joyful sense” to the collection, and its communication will highlight an imagery blending “the Parisian and Los Angeles girls in a hotel particulier for a young multicultural customer.” The designer underscored that the collection will be entirely made in Italy with Italian fabrics.

Asked for his perception of denim, Valli said the material evokes thoughts of “Lee Radziwill at the Hamptons, Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, Studio 54 and Brooke Shields in her Calvins. It’s all about glamor.”

This is not the first foray in denim for the designer, who, for example, created several looks with this material for his debut Giamba collection in September. He said he has always had an affinity for the fabric, especially “when you use it as a duchesse,” he explained, noting that he likes and is open to “the unexpected” and “there is never any pigeonholing” in his design process. “Curiosity is my muse.”

Discussing how Seven For All Mankind approached him, Valli remarked on his “love of collaborations,” and that, since the brand “is the ultimate” in jeans, and “the first dedicated to women,” the capsule was “a very important experience. If you want to do it, do it with Seven,” he reasoned. Past collaborations for Valli include a tie-up with Macy’s, a phone with Nokia and the ongoing collections for Moncler Gamme Rouge. “These are all leaders in their fields,” he said.

Collaborations are also an occasional pastime for Seven For All Mankind, which has done tie-ups in the past with Emilio Pucci and Zac Posen. Miguel said there’s no timetable for them other than “when there’s something or someone that seems exciting and appropriate.”

He noted that “fit, fabric and feel” are key qualities of the brand, which Valli could exalt with his cutting skill and luxury sensibility.

Miguel said the tie-up represents a brand-building opportunity for both parties, and the co-branded line would include a digital-driven communication campaign, along with store windows and in-store animations. “Our customer wants to be involved in the world of fashion, and this is something that will excite her,” Miguel said. While billed as a one-season project, the executive did not close the door to further collaborations. “We really enjoyed working with Mr. Valli. He’s incredibly talented; he has a fresh vision.”

In designing the capsule, Valli said he was given carte blanche by Seven For All Mankind. The designer brought his couture sensitivity to the capsule, in terms of proportions, cuts and construction of the looks, and employed denim as a canvas to project his vision and strong identity.

The first capsule delivery hinges on seven high-waisted skinny pants in seven shades of matte-coated red and pink denim — aptly dubbed “Lipsticks,” and on a number of graphic animal prints made by the same printer Valli employs for his couture looks. This capsule also includes a minidress, a sleeveless top, a flared top, shorts and a jacket in similar fabrications. The second delivery includes high-waisted and skinny jeans in seven different shades of blue; a group of fluorescent neon hues partly bleached to pastel colors, and white lace denim. This second segment also includes high-waist flared pants, a playsuit, a bomber and a peplum top. Grosgrain trims used for closures and tags add an additional luxurious touch.

The Seven project caps off a busy year for Valli, who in September introduced a second ready-to-wear label during Milan Fashion Week. Dubbed Giamba after Valli’s nickname, it is meant to have a more freewheeling spirit. Giamba is now available at 140 points of sale around the world. “It’s more than I expected, and I think its success lies on three elements: I showed an unexpected side of me; it’s a young product in every sense, and I showed in Milan. I brought a dose of eclecticism, a joyful and playful collection,” he said, adding that he will continue to show the line in Milan. His rtw and couture collections are presented in Paris.

Giamba posted wholesale revenues of 2.3 million euros, or $2.8 million at current exchange, for the first season and retail revenues total around 66 millions euros, or $82.2 million, worldwide for Giambattista Valli.

Against the backdrop of an economy Valli described as a “roller coaster,” the designer feels secure in “a carefully mapped out worldwide distribution” that does not rely on one market alone. He cited a very solid business in the U.S., as well as the important regions of Asia, the Middle East and Europe, with London leading the cities in the continent. “I am very pleased with the performance in the U.S., where I see that my products are very well–received,” he said. In about 10 days, he will be traveling to Los Angeles for a series of trunk shows. “I strongly believe in the real contact and dialogue with my customers,” he said. The U.S. market represents 15 percent of sales for the Giamba line and 25 percent of the designer’s signature line.

Next year, Valli will celebrate his first decade in business, a milestone he is thinking of marking with a special project to be unveiled at a later date. At a time when independent designers face increasing competition from large and powerful conglomerates, Valli conceded that it would be “easier with a partner that can give credibility, solidity and potential to open up. It was important to build my DNA in these past 10 years, to create a style, a silhouette that is equivalent to a brand, my own themes, patterns and colors. I would want to expand my message more, but rather than with an investor it would have to be a partner that could share my vision and direction and not only a financial interest. It’s like falling in love. It’s great if there is an enthusiasm to share the future,” he elaborated.

Meanwhile, Seven For All Mankind continues its global expansion, having opened full-price stores this year in cities including Berlin, Geneva, Manchester and Rotterdam in Europe along with partnership locations in Beirut, Bahrain, Johannesburg and Riyadh.

In the first half, the company is planning openings in Asia and the U.S., including two new stores in the Philippines, in Cebu and Manila; one unit in Shanghai, and one in the U.S. In Europe and the Middle East, there are no plans to open any new banners at least for the first part of 2015, because the brand had a strong retail expansion in the area, mainly in the last two years in top cities and top streets, said Miguel. “We’ll focus on having these stores performing in a great way and we’ll keep on investing money on them.”

There are 129 Seven For All Mankind stores globally and 2,400 wholesale doors in the world. Priced at between $350 and $650, the collection will be launched globally through Seven For All Mankind retail stores, top department stores and multibrand stores worldwide, and will also be available through the Seven For All Mankind Web site.

The first package of the capsule will be stocked in about 60 Seven For All Mankind stores globally, and about 76 specialty and premium department stores around the world, while the second delivery will have a wider distribution, adding doors and premium department stores.

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