LONDON — Matthew Williamson will unveil his first diffusion collection for fall 2011 as part of a new license agreement with the Italian company Mariella Burani Fashion Group.
Muse by Matthew Williamson — the collection’s working title — will be manufactured and distributed by MBFG, which was placed under government-backed bankruptcy protection earlier this year and has since been be restructured.
“We’ve been in business for 12 years, and we felt the time was right for a diffusion line,” Joseph Velosa, Williamson’s business partner and the company’s chief executive officer, said in an exclusive interview. “We’re confident, the identity of the first line is solid, and we feel like there are very clear parameters for a diffusion line.”
This week Williamson will launch a coffee-table book called “Matthew Williamson” (Rizzoli) that looks back on the designer’s career and features essays by celebrities and major industry figures. Williamson will also unveil an exhibition of his designs at Somerset House in London, and a capsule collection with Net-a-porter.com featuring seven of his best-selling dresses with archive prints.
Prices for the diffusion line will range from 300 pounds, or $474, for a day dress to 500 pounds, or $790, at current exchange, for evening pieces. Velosa said the line has been conceived as the “younger sister” to the designer’s signature collection and is meant to sell alongside labels such as Marc by Marc Jacobs and See by Chloé.
“It’s for a woman who wants feel-good clothing, and it will have the same aesthetic, DNA and surface signatures as the main line,” he said. Williamson will design two collections annually, with 250 stockkeeping units each by the third season.
MBFG will wholesale the line, and plans to set up showrooms in seven cities including New York, Paris, Milan, Hong Kong and Dubai.
Jeffry Aronsson — founder and chairman of the Aronsson Group, which has a stake in Matthew Williamson — was said to have conceived the idea, introduced the parties and helped negotiate the transaction.
The formerly family-run and publicly listed MBFG was a major player on the manufacturing landscape until recently. Over the years, it has had licensing agreements with firms such as Valentino, Calvin Klein, La Perla and Vivienne Westwood. But earlier this year, the Reggio Emilia-based MBFG collapsed under debts of more than $600 million, and in July its manager-owners Walter and Giovanni Burani were placed under arrest as part of a wider ongoing investigation into fraudulent bankruptcy.
In March, Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development granted bankruptcy protection to MBFG and appointed three administrators to manage the group. Over the last six months, the administrators have been cleaning up the business — and focusing on the future.
“We consider Matthew Williamson one of the most interesting designers in the luxury fashion sphere,” the administrators said Tuesday. “His own creative ability, together with the highly identifiable brand DNA of his main-line brand, has, without any doubt, created an innovative luxury concept in the fashion market, which we now believe is ready for a global diffusion line.”
Velosa said he and Williamson had considered a few other candidates to produce the diffusion collection but, in the end, they were impressed by the infrastructure at MBFG.
“Their capabilities are fantastic, and they are experts with fine details. And you could just tell that everyone there is yearning to get started again. The energy was right, and I think it’s a great initiative on the part of the Italian government to protect Made in Italy manufacturing,” he said.