Byline: Jessica Kerwin

NEW YORK — Let the others play their high-stakes, high-drama games. Suzanne Clements and Inacio Ribeiro will have none of it.
Their ascendancy at Cacharel could have been full of all the Sturm und Drang that designers stir up when they sweep in to revamp older houses. Instead, when Ribeiro talks of Jean Bosquet, the company’s chairman and founder, his effusive praise borders on the sappy. It seems to have been a regular honeymoon since day one.
“People won’t believe it,” Ribeiro said while in town to show the fall collection last week, “but Suzanne and I are totally free. Of course, our image of Cacharel happens to fit very well with Mr. Bosquet’s vision, but we have no limitations.”
And these days, Mr. Bosquet has plenty of reasons to let the pair do as they please. Cacharel’s witty spring collection, Clements and Ribeiro’s first for the company, heralded a 30 percent sales increase. Though the line hadn’t been sold in the U.S. for more than 20 years, it made its way into 15 doors here. The fall collection, which strengthened Cacharel’s whimsical new image with a cheeky ode to Parisian elegance full of trompe l’oeil touches, will be carried in 43 American doors.
How would Ribeiro characterize Cacharel before he and his wife stepped in to design it? He paused thoughtfully at the question. “It was a sad line,” he said. “The company had no real fashion presence for 20 years before we came in. Last season, the sales in France were quite shaken, because they dropped in the provinces, but in Paris they really picked up.” In fact, Cacharel will unveil three new in-shop stores in Paris. Le Bon Marche will open the first, Printemps will follow, and Galleries Lafayette will dedicate 300 square feet to the label come fall.
“It’s worth losing some of the old customers,” Ribeiro noted. “The new customer is younger and more influential.”
Considering the demands of that fickle new customer and the solid reputation for girly eccentricity that Clements and Ribeiro built with their own line in London, it’s hard to keep things as low-key as the the designers would like. “The first season it was easy to avoid the pressure, because we were so busy that we had no idea what people were expecting,” said Ribeiro, who knew the company only through its old Anais Anais ads. “But there’s a huge pressure coming into a house and revamping it. We don’t want to join the rat race and be the new new thing.”
To cope with the additional pressures putting together two lines in two different cities brings, the designers have developed a simple strategy. “We want to keep Cacharel as lighthearted as possible,” Ribeiro said with a laugh, “just to make it bearable.”