PARIS — Rossignol wants to be about more than just skis and skiwear.
The French brand has launched Rossignol Apparel, a new business unit dedicated to the group’s apparel branch, which aims to grow in the high-end sportswear segment, as well as in ready to wear.
Rossignol Apparel is headed by Alessandro Locatelli, who joined the brand from Pierre Balmain following a long career in developing premium fashion labels, most notably at Italian manufacturer Ittierre SpA, a former licensee of Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld and others.
The first men’s and women’s collections under his reign, which will be designed by a new team, are to launch during the upcoming fashion weeks in January and February, respectively, in the company’s new headquarters on Corso Venezia in Milan.
“We have had ready-to-wear before, and these were good first attempts, but adding Alessandro and his skills to the group and having one design team do all of our lines is a huge step for us. Before, we were just a ski brand trying to do apparel. This is a whole new chapter,” explained Bruno Cercley, chief executive officer of the Rossignol Group, which comprises six winter sport brands — Rossignol and Dynastar skis, Look bindings, Lange boots, Kerma poles and Risport figure skates.
“In the ski business, our market share stands at 23 percent. This makes us a global leader. If we do well, we will be able to capture another two to three percent in the next three years. But not using Rossignol as an asset [beyond equipment and skiwear] would be [unreasonable],” Cercley acknowledged, adding that it was Tommy Hilfiger who put the idea in his head.
Hilfiger, along with former Gucci chief Domenico De Sole, figures among a high-profile roster of advisers to Sandbridge Capital LLC, the investment firm that took a minority stake in Rossignol in 2014.
The brand’s main shareholder remains Nordic fund Altor.
Locatelli said Rossignol Apparel will offer four lines: two skiwear collections — one high-performance for professionals, the other for hobby skiers, boasting novel styles such as five-pocket ski pants; an après-ski line, and a trans-seasonal urbanwear collection, two-thirds of which will be based on outerwear.
The label also plans to grow its knitwear offering.
“All in all, it’s about luxury sportswear,” Locatelli explained. “What is interesting about skiing is that it’s not like football [soccer] — it comes with a lifestyle. When you go to places like Chamonix [in the Alps], you understand that it’s a different world, a luxury resort. And so what we need to focus on is a combination of four things: skiwear with all its technicalities; a nice aesthetic — because it just has to look good; telling a story — which we can, because the brand has a beautiful 108-year-old history, and the fact that this is a French brand, which resonates well with the consumer, especially in the premium market.”
Since Locatelli quietly joined the company earlier this year, he has suspended all of the brand’s licenses and has brought production back in-house. He says he is also eager to capitalize on the group’s history of innovation, which sees annual investments of 10 million euros, or $10.6 million at current exchange.
“The brand historically has always been chasing new technologies,” Locatelli noted, citing the 37.4 technology, which keeps a constant garment temperature no matter what the activity, as an example, as well as Rossignol’s volcano stone fiber, developed with an American partner, which the brand uses for insulation.
At present, Rossignol accounts for two-thirds of the group’s turnover, which on March 31 stood at 241 million euros, or $305.6 million, at average exchange for the period. About 10 percent is apparel.
Twenty-five percent of the group’s business is in France, 40 percent in the rest of Europe and 30 percent in North America.
The new Rossignol Apparel collections will be distributed via a select list of wholesalers as well as six monobrand stores, which are slated to open in the coming six months across French, Swiss and Italian mountain resorts, including Chamonix, Megève, Courmayeur, Crans Montana, Cortina d’Ampezzo and St. Moritz.