Byline: Robert Murphy

PARIS — Gilles Dufour is revved up and ready to go.
Almost a year after a falling out with Balmain, Dufour is poised to strike out on his own with a ready-to-wear collection that will make its debut at retail this fall.
Dufour told WWD that he had sealed an agreement with Mondrian, based in Modena, Italy, which works with Italian fashion house Basile, to produce and distribute his first solo line, which will be shown to buyers in Milan in late February during ready-to-wear collections, and then to buyers and the press at Paris’s ensuing fashion week.
“It feels great to be coming back,” enthused Dufour in a telephone interview. “Fashion’s in my blood, and with Balmain now behind me, it was time to move to something new.”
Balmain terminated Dufour’s contract last March on grounds that outfits he showed for the house’s fall-winter 2000 collection emblazoned with “Whore” and “Bitch” were detrimental to the Balmain image. Dufour, who previously worked for 15 years with Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, most of them running the design studio, had completed three collections at the house.
“It’s unfortunate what happened with Balmain,” said Dufour. “But now it’s time to concentrate on the future.”
Dufour said his signature collection will “pick up where I left off at Balmain.
“I’m going to stay true to my aesthetic: It will be very colorful — I love color — and quality focused. The line will be unique, with a one-off feel, luxurious and very young in spirit.”
In the past, Dufour has been praised for his talent with knits — he played an instrumental role in Chanel’s success with sweaters and twinsets — so it comes as little surprise that knitwear will anchor Dufour’s new line.
“Knitwear will be the heart of the collection,” said Dufour. “I want to focus the line. There will also be a lot of jersey, but also fur and leather.”
Meanwhile, Dufour said that he plans to open a freestanding Paris boutique by July, although he hasn’t signed a lease and still is mulling several locations. “A shop is very important for the brand’s image,” said Dufour.
Dufour said he has two muses: Olympia Le-Tan, the daughter of the well-known French illustrator Pierre Le-Tan, and Aurore Daerden, known around Paris for her groovy wardrobe and working as a deejay. Both girls will assist Dufour with his collection.
“The girls are great,” said Dufour. “They are representative of the new generation of Paris chic and energy.”
Although Dufour will not do a runway show this season, he will host a cocktail party at a Paris art gallery to present the line to the public. He said it will be composed of roughly 60 pieces and retail at the designer price level.
“There will be a lot of cashmere, some with graphic designs. It will be funky, but very wearable,” he added.
Dufour said he’s been designing the line for several months now, but wanted to wait until he signed the deal with Mondrian to make his plans public.
Before joining Chanel, Dufour assisted Pierre Cardin and Andre Oliver on one couture collection and had several designing stints at lesser-known companies. He helped design fabrics for Chloe, collaborated on film and theater costumes and decor — once at the request of Rudolf Nureyev for the Twyla Tharp production of “Rules of the Game” — and then joined Lagerfeld after his first collection at Chanel in 1983.

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