Roland Herlory on collaborating with artists; Vilebrequin construction and plans for Sonia Rykiel

Roland Herlory, CEO of Vilebrequin explains: “You need to give time, explains as he unveils a new collaboration of three prominent artists with the famous brand, which he has recorded. silently built itself into the market leader in luxury swimwear.

Roland Herlory, CEO of Vilebrequin and Sonia Rykiel – Photo: Courtesy of the firm

The launch – featuring the big-name trio Sylvie Fleury, Kenny Scharf and John M. Armleder – is just one of many projects Herlory oversees. He was also recently appointed as the CEO of Sonia Rykielafter being acquired by New York-based G-III, the company acquired Vilebrequin in late 2021. Happily, Herlory anticipates a similar strategic approach to building its latest authentic luxury brand. join the American corporation.

That careful approach is evident in Vilebrequin’s latest collaboration. Vilebrequin had originally planned a quartet, but when African-American artist Mickalene Thomas’s ideas proved too complicated to complete on time, the brand pushed back her debut.

“Our fourth artist isn’t even ready yet. Mickalene Thomas is all about pushing boundaries, and that takes time. We have to respect that and her dream,” insisted Herlory as she drank coffee at the Paris rooftop restaurant La Plume.

Herlory is an executive with an unusual mind, Herlory got the idea for the artwork from a desire to work with the publisher JRP Editions, and the founder Lionel Bovier, a renowned curator and director of the company. MAMCO, Geneva’s important modern museum, where Vilebrequin’s headquarters are located.

“First, we wanted to work with artists who expressed themselves in textiles as a natural engagement in their art. I was torn between art and fashion. But Lionel knows whose work might logically fit into our universe,” mused Roland.

Fleury is often referred to as “the appropriation artist,” as she borrows and blends artifacts and images of American pop culture and European opulence with absurd irony. Her fiery breather in a Vilebrequin bathing suit echoes Fleury’s obsession with American convertibles.

Scharf, whose style could be the haute couture of street art, has previously collaborated with Dior for a Saint-Laurent-in-Miami themed collection. Scharf’s shorts are a mix of his friendly grinning graffiti monsters, or a bunch of crabs, a crustacean that worships Vilebrequin. While Armleder linked to AnchorGeometric conceptualism led to an unexpected gesture abstraction.

The back of a pair of shorts for the Vilebrequin x Massimo Vitali collaboration – Photo: Courtesy of Vilebrequin

Each artist’s ideas are expressed in towels, beach hats, bikinis and linen shirts. Starting spring, Vilebrequin will retail them in just 20 stores and online through the brand’s websites. While maybe not in e-tailers, even if Vilebrequin works with all majors – Net-A-Porter, Mytheresa, Zalando and Farfetch.

“I don’t want them to be sold like any other maillots. They are not a work of art, but an artistic extension of an artist’s work. So they need to be sold with the right explanation,” he snorted.

Actually, the link is the same as the image. Because Vilebrequin can earn 10x when partnering with a major tournament designer.

“But we need dreams to make our customers dream. So this elevates our brand and generates energy. Second, this leverages our conventional technical premises. We all learn something in the process. And third, there’s a sense that when you work with beauty and rarity that makes you proud,” concludes Herlory.

Vilebrequin’s first artist collaboration was with Massimo VitaliItalian photographer known for his large format photographs of beach scenes.

“Massimo is the artist of the beach, that’s where Vilebrequin begins. He loves the brand and to create the right image, asks people to wear white shorts on beaches in places like Presqu’île de Giens or Porquerolles. Apply image on image on image. To respect the artist’s work is technically very difficult just to ensure the image continues correctly into the pocket. But we made it,” he beamed. The result is a series of legendary swimwear, beachwear icons.

Then he added Alex Israel, Derrick Adams, Donald Sultan, the Rolling Stones and Karl Lagerfeld into the mixture. More recently Palm Angel and space Jamfilm, and in 10 years, Roland hopes to host a veritable exhibition of all those collaborations.

An archived Vilebrequin image – Photo: Courtesy of Vilebrequin

Last year, Vilebrequin celebrated the brand’s 50th anniversary in 1971, when colorblind sports photographer and racing fan Fred Prysquel dreamed up the idea of ​​really exciting new swimmers. . After sewing his first pair and winning admiration, he named his brand Vilebrequin after the French word for ‘crankshaft’.

Then Pierre Blum’s Ebel Watches finally bought Vilebrequin and moved it to Geneva over 20 years ago. A decade ago, G-III, a licensee of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfigerbought Vilebrequin from Dutch Fashion Fund One for 85.5 million euros, almost double the brand’s 2011 sales, to 45 million euros.

The G-III, quoted on Nasdaq, doesn’t break down Vilebrequin’s annual sales, although Herlory claims “about 100 million euros or 200 million euros in retail.” On Thursday, G-III reported a profit of $200 million on annual sales of $2.77 billion; compared with $23.5 million and $2.06 billion a year earlier.

Herlory is full of praise for CEO G-III Morris Goldfarb.

“Morris loves to build brands. He has a not-so-large brand team. And he loves the way we’re building Vilebrequin carefully and rigorously. Americans can be very aggressive about growth. But Morris favors and accepts a longer rhythm in Vilebrequin. Yes, we grow each year but at the natural rhythm of the brand, adding territory but with care. And that is how we will proceed at Rykiel,” said Herlory, who speaks good English, but gave the interview in French.

Herlory became CEO when G-III took over, after 23 years at Hermes where he holds titles such as commercial director of the group; regional director for Latin America, and in charge of special projects for Jean-Louis Dumas, the brand’s best CEO.

“I was attracted to Vilebrequin because it was a real reference to its demesne. It takes real integrity by inventing something – the first real swim shorts, built for enjoyment. page la. And we wanted to push this exercise even further and become an innovative brand,” explains Herlory, who recently celebrated half a century of his own, an event that made him swear he would. only tell the truth in the future.

Fred Prysquel, founder of the brand – Photo: Courtesy of Vilebrequin

For the first two years, everything was focused on “upgrade, upgrade and upgrade”. Making sure they use only the finest quality linings, piercings, stretch materials and mesh, a key factor as Vilebrequin shorts are noted for being extremely comfortable and quick-drying. Supported by mesh made of polyester yarn, surrounded by cotton. The stem is made of 100% stretch polyamide in France, while the printing is partly French and Italian. Using high-density fibers, the fabrics are brushed with glass paper to create a microscopic moleskin like velvet.

“Touch is what gives you comfort. It’s a natural human feeling,” smiled Henry, a small town boy who grew up east of Metz, who came to Paris to study at the Sorbonne.

One wonders what in Hermès that applies at Vilebrequin?

“Quality and durability. To me, ecological sustainability is really durability. Something that last year. So we can always fix our shorts, change into spandex or mesh. That I got from Hermès. Today, all of our threads are recyclable. We get polyamide from fish nets and even from carpets. Even thinner ones are taken from bottles. We also work with 1,500 fishermen in Spain,” he asserts.

Currently, Vilebrequin has about 200 self-standing shops, including 10 airports, some small shops about 20 square meters. In addition, the brand retails at about 150 points of sale through top level department stores such as KVD, Harrods, Selfridges, Galeries Lafayette, NordstromNeiman Marcus, Saks and Bloomingdales.

“I know a lot of department stores have had big problems, but some US department stores have done very well with their dotcoms. But from my point of view, the Internet is really a racket. If you pay more for clicks, you will get higher position on Google. It is practically like gang war. We pay 85 cents a click when people search for luxury swimwear and more in high season! “He’s annoyed.

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