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Fashion: Another Chance for the House of Vionnet?

Feb 18 2009

Vionnet:Matteo Marzotto Vionnet:Gold Dresses Vionnet - Designer 

Left to right: Matteo Marzotto, image courtesy of The Sartorialist; Vionnet creations, image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Madeleine Vionnet, image unattributed.

Could it be? Could it really be? Could the once venerable House of Vionnet finally be in the hands of someone worthy of the fashion label and capable of reviving it in a way that will honor the brand's place in fashion history? At the risk of sounding like an optimist, it would appear so. Matteo Marzotto, former CEO of Valentino, has reportedly just purchased the company.

The House of Vionnet was founded by Madeleine Vionnet in 1912 and eventually grew to employ over 1,100 seamstresses. It was also one of the first fashion houses, along with Jean Patou and Lucien Lelong, to create luxury prêt-à-porter. In the 1920s Vionnet introduced the bias cut, a technique for cutting cloth diagonal to the grain of the fabric enabling it to cling to the body while allowing fluidity of motion. Inspired by ancient Greek art in which garments appear to float freely around the body, Vionnet's use of the bias cut to create a sleek, body-skimming look with dramatic draping became her trademark. The look is still going strong today and is sometimes referred to as "a goddess gown". The label was eventually shuttered after the death of its founder. In 1988, the House of Vionnet was purchased by the Lummen family.

As you may know, the fashion house has been through some very rocky times of late resulting in the departure of not one but two talented young designers in so many years. In 2006, Vionnet launched a clothing collection for Spring/Summer 2007 under the direction of of Sofia Kokosalaki, its first clothing collection in over 60 years. Kokosalaki left Vionnet after only two seasons and was replaced by Marc Audibet in May 2007, a respected French designer and alumnus of Hermes and Prada. He in turn resigned in January 2008 citing the company's precarious financial situation.

At The Luxe Chronicles, our fondest wish for the once venerable House of Vionnet is that it experiences the kind of re-birth experienced by the Balenciaga label under the joint stewardship of Nicholas Ghesquiere and Francois-Henri Pinault rather than the hyped-up re-launch of Halston or the on again/off again fiasco at Guy Laroche. Will Mr. Marzotto be up to the challenge? We truly hope so.


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It's exciting and encouraging to see someone investing in this timeless historical and influential house. It will be challenging to match such an innovative designer but such an honor for whomever is chosen!

Madeleine Vionnet was a very clear technician, an architect with scissors, who created garments that perfectly married the dynamics of the fabrics to those of the body -- simple, organic and fairly impossible to do consistently. This talent transcends social and national parameters. The house will succeed if the new designer can match Vionnet's ability to cut cloth on the body. Only that criterion is needed. It, too, is simple and enough.

I feel sad to see a French house going in the hands of Marzotto... Maybe they can bring the money and the right connections to push forward into the spotlight the house but what about the soul??? I am sure it is going to be a 100% Italian stuff, from the designer to the production which, for sure, will be made in Italy... What about the Parisian soul of the house? What about those exquisite French-made clothes that we saw those last seasons (even if it was so much expensive)??? Does Marzotto even know who is Lesage???

Unless they can put out a collection by summer to coincide it with the upcoming Vionnet exhibition in Paris for maximum exposure, the timing of this purchase seems odd to me.

Maybe they could do an Edition line like Balenciaga, just put out stuff from the archive, change the colour, change the hem length. It's probably a more cost effective way to run a house that has so much history.

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The Luxe Chronicles is a collection of interviews, profiles and musings on various aspects of the luxury industry and occasionally, a rant on our celebrity obsessed culture and the dumbing down of our collective sense of style and esthetic.

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