PARIS — Martine Sitbon, a stalwart of the fashion scene here known for tempering a feminine sensibility with a rock edge, is making a comeback two years after her namesake house was forced to close.
The new venture will be called Rue du Mail — as Sitbon’s prior partner, Shamzie of South Korea, still owns the rights to her name — and is being financed by Hong Kong investor Jimmy Chan.
Chan will hold a 70 percent majority share, while Sitbon will have a 20 percent stake and Yasuo Umetada, the former European head of Yohji Yamamoto, will own 10 percent.
Umetada has been named president of the brand, the name of which is derived from the address of its headquarters at 5 Rue du Mail on the Right Bank here.
Sitbon characterized the collection as high-end and geared to the same clientele who gravitated to her former designs. She said it would mix her proclivity for Parisian chic with a tougher point of view.
“I’m still the same designer as I was in the past, and I have the same sensibility, but now it’s updated for today’s mood,” she said, adding that she planned to show her first designs on the runway during the upcoming Paris ready-to-wear season.
“I believe Martine has a lot to give,” said Chan, 33, who made the investment via a company called Semiotics, based in Hong Kong. He described Semiotics as a graphic design firm that serves as a creative platform to develop other interests. His clients range from Motorola to EMI, and he runs two Evisu shops in Hong Kong.
Chan has a history in retail. While living in Toronto in his early 20s he bought a streetwear boutique called Uncle Otis from Roger O’Donnell, the keyboardist of The Cure.
A fashion fan, he then traveled to Europe and persuaded Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto to sell their wares to a new shop he opened, called Otis. “It was important for me to find a partner with whom I share the same culture,” said Sitbon.
She noted that during the deal with Chan, he asked for a list of music the designer was listening to so we “would be on the same wavelength.”
“We both share a love of music,” said Chan, speaking in the firm’s sprawling, under-construction headquarters.
When finished, the 7,000-square-foot space will house the creative studio, administrative offices and a store, which should open by July.
“We both share the same goals,” said Chan. “I believe in fostering creativity. I want to learn from Martine as much as I want to support her. What I like about Martine is that she is very authentic.”
Umetada said his goal was to land between 60 and 100 accounts for the debut season, which will focus on women’s rtw with a smattering of accessories. He said four collections a year are planned, and that accessories would be a priority for growth. Men’s wear could be introduced in the near future.
“We may have lacked a strong management team in the past,” said Sitbon. “Now that we have that in place, I am very confident for the future.”