Victor Glemaud has had many fashion lives — as an assistant to Patrick Robinson, a publicist at KCD and a studio director at Paco Rabanne.
Now, in the sixth year of designing his namesake knitwear collection, and on the heels of a successful Target collaboration, he’s looking to hit a new mark — wide-ranging commercial appeal.
American fashion has a deep legacy of knits, from Coles of California to Rudi Gernreich, Geoffrey Beene to Halston. “It’s that history of celebrating the body, now we just celebrate all sizes,” quips Glemaud.
He was well ahead of the current, pandemic-fueled knitwear rush, which has Khaite designer Conley Averett showing his own Judy Turner knitwear collection Wednesday at Michael’s restaurant, and industry vet Gilles Mendel pivoting to launch J. Mendel knitwear this week as just two examples.
“It was an outlier category when we started with four sweaters…There was a big education and learning curve from retail to customers. It took about two years for them to realize they could buy and support the brand year round. Sure, there have always been sweaters on the runway but what we’ve done from the beginning is make knitwear very celebrated and considered, from cutouts to slashes, through having it feel like it’s something you can wear year round.”
Over the years Glemaud has built his business through Saks Fifth Avenue, Revolve and FWRD, among others, with fans including Meghan Markle, Issa Rae and Selena Gomez.
In 2022, he has his sights set on expansion.
At his runway show on Saturday, where he was supported by an industrywide and industry-adjacent fan club spanning from Vogue editors past and present to socialite Marjorie Gubelmann and his former boss Robinson, he introduced cut-and-sew jersey pieces, including mesh-cutout gowns and body-confident separates priced right at $450 to $550.
“Victor had such an incredible response to the Target collaboration that we thought not only how do we bring prices down, but how do we bring in that wow factor under $1,000,” said chief operating officer Lisa Metcalfe, who has worked to reduce prices in the collection by 25 percent.
“What it did in terms of our industry is it made people aware of the brand in a different way,” said Glemaud. “Lisa and I have had many conversations about opportunities and when Target came out it was proof of concept, people saw the response on social media and in their own families. It exceeded my expectations,” he said, recalling how on the morning the capsule collection was released, he arrived early to the Target store in Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn to find there were people already in line.
“We took pictures and chatted, and it showed me the reach of the brand aesthetic. What I’ve always enjoyed about fashion in truly dressing people,” he said.
Metcalfe joined the company in March 2018, with experience developing such brands as Pam & Gela. And by 2019, Glemaud was experiencing 200 percent growth. During the depth of the pandemic in 2020, sales were down 50 percent, but now in 2022, the brand is back to 2019 numbers, she said, declining to share sales figures.
A lot of best practices being embraced by the industry now Glemaud has been doing organically from the beginning of his business, including minimizing waste by shipping direct from factories, in flat packs, and designing for larger sizes.
“Our Curve category we’ve sold from 2017 when Ashley Graham wore our dress to the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund event,” said Glemaud. “We’ve tried to sell it to partners and some get it and some don’t. But we’ve been selling it on our website quite well, and we’ve partnered with Farfetch and it’s been selling quite well internationally. I’m like, ‘oh, Malaysia and Switzerland.’ It’s great to see what is resonating globally.”
In 2022, he has several accessories collaborations coming out, as well as an interiors partnership. He has dreams of making swimwear, menswear, and partnering with Loro Piana, perhaps.
“Creatively, I feel confident as a designer and I feel confident as a businessman,” he said.
In 2020 Glemaud launched the In the Blk network to share his knowledge and experience. “In our industry, everyone feels really siloed. I have never felt that because my first boss was Patrick Robinson, but a lot of people feel left out, and I’ve been open about my journey and my path in fashion, which has had it’s ups and downs, every career does. But now that I’m in my early forties, I can look back and understand, it’s just time and being more comfortable and checking my ego and celebrating the successes and failures and pushing forward.”
In Metcalfe, he’s found the right partner to do so.
“I’ve been doing this 36 years, and I have seen a lot of designers, from those working for Calvin Klein, to Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor, and the thing I appreciate about Victor is that he’s in this as a business, I respect that, and it’s unique especially for a small brand that usually might be about wanting to be on this site or that site, even if we’re not making money. The first question from Victor is are we going to make money and if not, he says let’s move on. We are both brutally honest and respectful.”
Glemaud and Metcalfe are also aligned in their values. “Most of our business is wholesale, and the stores appreciate Victor. It’s not just featuring him in February and June, Victor is featured all year round and people respect what our brand is and how long Victor has been at it,” she said.
“I knew I had this idea that I also needed someone to help me grow it,” said Glemaud, recalling how he’s done it all, from packaging to sales. “She allows me to be as involved as I want and most of the time I’m not involved,” he said.
Which gives him more time to devote to In The Blk.
“I’ve never seen a place like this in fashion no matter your race, where people share what’s going on in Milan, Istanbul and Lagos,” said Glemaud.
For the second season, In the Blk has partnered with IMG on a fashion week runway showcase for emerging designers, but Glemaud said finding other corporate sponsors has been challenging.
“People want to be involved but it’s quite performative, they have pre-determined ways they want to be involved, and we’re like no, it’s not about Juneteenth and it’s not about three months,” he said. “But I take the hits and say no and stand up a lot for the designers. It’s a lot of saying no.”
“Victor with his network he makes available and the confidence he brings to younger businesses to say no is invaluable. With everything that’s happened in 2020 and 2021, the overdue focus on designers of color, even when I’m mentoring designers, it’s hard to realize not every opportunity is an opportunity,” said Metcalfe.
“There’s a retailer I won’t mention who said we’re doing a pop-up for Black designers. And being a non person of color, I said you need to read this room quickly, because what you’re presenting is really offensive,” the executive said. “It’s a heavy lift to work with a major retailer and you have to know they believe in and support you.”
“Endeavor and UPS sponsored the show, and our Paris Fashion Week videos were sponsored by Facebook and Instagram. In the Blk is a nonprofit so we need partners but they need to be aligned and support the members, the talent, the culture and the people. We need a long-term pop-up,” said the designer.
Indeed, both agree they aren’t interested in having a niche brand.
Glemaud said, “I want to be American designer of today and tomorrow, that’s what we’re building.”