PARIS — Giambattista Valli is launching an activewear capsule collection and gearing up for a retail push, marking the first steps of his label’s planned expansion under its new partnership with the billionaire Pinault family.
Known for his flirty cocktail dresses and sculptural evening gowns, the designer has steered his brand in a more casual direction in recent seasons, showing taffeta jackets with Nike running tights for fall and introducing logo-printed denim for spring 2018.
Now Valli is joining the ranks of luxury brands vying for a portion of the thriving athleisure market. According to Euromonitor, sports-inspired footwear and apparel is growing at a rapid pace, registering 10 percent and 6 percent increases in 2016, respectively.
Following the end of his decade-long partnership with Italian luxury outerwear firm Moncler as creative director of its Gamme Rouge line, he will unveil his namesake activewear collection of 50 to 60 pieces — including coats, puffer jackets, sweatshirts and track suits — to buyers in January.
“It’s a capsule collection where we will express a more functional side of the brand, while remaining faithful to the atmosphere of contemporary chic that is part of its DNA,” Valli told WWD in an exclusive interview.
“I love the idea of introducing new materials to activewear by applying the house’s know-how in handling certain fabrics to this segment,” he added. “It’s extremely Valli, extremely sophisticated, extremely luxurious — but on the other hand, today’s customer mixes Uniqlo with luxury brands.”
With core prices ranging from 1,100 euros to 2,500 euros, the line will be delivered in June 2018 in tandem with pre-fall. Identified by a color-coded label, it will be sold in Giambattista Valli boutiques and select specialty stores, and presented on the catwalk alongside the main collection.
“This is not a secondary line,” emphasized Valli, adding that it would start with casual clothing with technical elements including après-ski outfits, and eventually expand to include swimwear and beach separates — though not performance gear.
Since Artémis, the private investment arm of the Pinault family, took a minority stake in Maison Valli in June, the two partners have been working on a plan to develop the brand into a 360-degree universe, the designer said.
“We really want to develop the brand in every direction. This is just the start,” he explained. With the recent expiration of his contract with Italian fur-maker Ciwifurs for his own fur coats and jackets, Valli has now brought all production and distribution in-house.
Maison Valli, which was founded in 2004 and produces haute couture, the Giambattista Valli and Giamba ready-to-wear lines, has quickly gained recognition as an important fashion and luxury player, dressing socialites and celebrities like Amal Clooney, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman and Diane Kruger.
“Over 12 years as an independent label, I created a niche for this house. It’s nice to be able to apply that formula, that magic, to products that are a little unexpected for the brand,” Valli said.
The collections are distributed through 245 specialty and department stores worldwide, as well as the Giambattista Valli boutiques in Paris, Milan, Saint-Tropez and Seoul.
Artémis is supporting the brand’s retail expansion, with plans to open stand-alone boutiques in Doha in January, and Seoul and Beijing, both in April. Each store will have its own identity, thanks to furniture and objects handpicked by Valli.
“I think today, the concept of luxury has become a little duty-free everywhere. It’s always the same thing. If you’ve been to one store, you’ve seen them all. And I love this idea of slightly more individual, dedicated spaces that each have their own personality,” he said.
Founded by François Pinault in 1992, Artémis is the majority shareholder of the global luxury group Kering, led by his son François-Henri Pinault. It also owns the auction house Christie’s; prestigious vineyards including Château Latour, and the luxury cruise specialist Ponant, among other assets.
“With the arrival of a French family, the brand has entered France’s heritage. The longer-term ambition is to turn it into an exceptional and historic brand,” Valli said. “We really want to explore the brand, to give it the widest scale possible while keeping that sense of privilege that you have when you approach it.”