PARIS — Joining the ranks of European brands taking a chance on a studio talent, Courrèges on Wednesday named Yolanda Zobel artistic director of the house, effective Feb. 26.
The announcement came some seven months after the French fashion label parted ways with design duo Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant, who were with Courrèges for two years. They were the first official designers at the helm of the brand since Space Age designer André Courrèges and his wife and creative partner Coqueline sold the company in 2011.
Despite getting off to a promising start, the modern, retro-futurist, conceptual vision of the creative pair — from smart designs focused on core Courrèges essentials to presentations on giant video screens and advertising campaigns based on patterns of signature garments — failed to translate into sales for the label.
Courrèges is now owned by former advertising executives Jacques Bungert and Frédéric Torloting, and a 40 percent stake is held by Artémis SA, the family holding company of French billionaire François Pinault.
François-Henri Pinault, his son and Kering chairman and chief executive officer, in a briefing with reporters after the company reported full-year results on Tuesday, described Courrèges as struggling. “The brand is undergoing a restructuring,” said Pinault, speaking in his capacity as Artémis ceo.
A relative unknown, Zobel — who grew up in Germany — has for two decades been developing fashion collections for various brands. According to her LinkedIn profile, she was head of women’s wear and creative management at Jil Sander in 2015. Prior to that, she was design director and head of women’s wear at Acne Studios from 2011 to 2013, and was also that label’s freelance designer for women’s wear pre-collection from 2008 to 2011.
Between 2006 and 2008, Zobel served as senior designer of Chloé’s main women’s line, under Paulo Melim Andersson, and from 1999 to 2005 was junior designer of the main women’s collection at Giorgio Armani.
A figure of the Berlin scene, Zobel walked in the spring show of local underground, club-kid collective GmbH, which also counts Stefano Pilati in its circle.
Other recent examples of second-in-command designers moving into the spotlight at European houses include Gucci’s Alessandro Michele, Mulberry’s Johnny Coca, Chloé’s Natacha Ramsay-Levi and Carven’s Serge Ruffieux.
Commenting on her appointment, Zobel — who is a close contact of Courrèges’ new ceo, Christina Ahlers — in a statement said the house has “inspired me and entire generations of designers with its anticonformism, its avant-garde spirit and its irresistible joie de vivre.”
“This new Courrèges will grow from the urge of creating a whole new universe for a free human, ahead of its time, explorative, courageous, self-aware, confident in his body and human energy, engaged and yet able to indulge in liberating moments of fun,” she said.
Bungert and Torloting said they are convinced the designer “will be able to grasp what Courrèges is all about while remaining true to herself.”
They added that with the appointment of Zobel, “a new development cycle is starting, with the plan now being to pick up the pace with Christina [Ahlers], so that Courrèges regains a leading position, both creatively and commercially.”
Zobel will present her first collection, for spring 2019, at the end of September.