MILAN — Matteo Marzotto has teamed up with Gianni Castiglioni, his longtime friend and Marni’s chief executive officer, to buy the house of Vionnet.

This story first appeared in the February 24, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The news confirms a WWD story on Feb. 17.

Marzotto and Castiglioni are equal partners in the new company, called Madeleine Vionnet, and acquired full control of the atelier from Arnaud de Lummen and other family members for an undisclosed sum.

“The idea matured last summer when I was looking for something fun, challenging and small,” said Marzotto in an exclusive interview. “I was intrigued at how Vionnet was inspired by ancient Greece but was so avant-garde in the way she draped, cut on the bias and revealed a woman’s shoulders.”

The creative reins for Vionnet’s comeback are in the hands of Rodolfo Paglialunga, one of Miuccia Prada’s design assistants for 12 years. He will preview his designs to retailers in early June and make his runway debut during Paris Fashion Week in October.

When still in the hands of the de Lummen family, Vionnet changed creative directors twice over two years, tapping Sophia Kokosalaki first and then Marc Audibet, who left a year ago after only one season.

“I was very impressed by [Paglialunga’s] consistency, his knowledge of the market and his ability to speak to women who aren’t ephemeral but want to spend for a top quality product with a reasonable price,” said Marzotto.

Marzotto considered the possibility of buying Vionnet when he was still at Valentino Fashion Group, but he gave up the idea due to VFG’s complicated structure and public listing. Marzotto left VFG a year ago, after six years as chairman and following its purchase by the private equity group Permira and delisting from the Milan Stock Exchange.

He remained fascinated by Vionnet’s exclusivity, history and, above all, beautiful gowns.

Vionnet will be based in Milan with a showroom and staff of 20 people. The collections will be made in Italy with a workshop for samples and prototypes in Perugia. The idea is to resurrect Vionnet with a full-fledged ready-to-wear collection and accessories.

Aware of the tough economy, Marzotto’s aim is to hit sales of 10 million euros, or $12.8 million at current exchange, in two years. He hopes to start with 150 sales points worldwide, with the goal of 280 in the long term. The business plan also includes the opening of four to six stores in major cities beginning in 2011.

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