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EXCLUSIVE: Vionnet Drops First Capsule, Integrates AI Platform

MILAN — The Vionnet brand is returning under new owner ChimHaeres with a project dubbed “Vivid Memories of the Future,” and a capsule collection bowing online on Saturday.

The first in a series of three, the collection is part of a new and “unprecedented creative project that marries community and technology,” contended Philippe Camperio, chairman of Vionnet, in an interview at his Milan office.

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The capsules are created as a tribute to the stylistic codes of founder Madeleine Vionnet and are “stepping stones that will bring us to a first-of-its-kind creative project inviting and involving the community experiencing fashion through technology: The Vionnet Way,” said Camperio.

He explained that this relies on the “interaction between community and technology, the sharing of talents and experiences,” departing from a traditional formula to revamp storied brands, which also generally includes a fashion show.  “The starting point of this process is co-creation, breaking down barriers between the brand and its audience,” observed Camperio.

The company is “integrating a generative artificial intelligence platform which is auto constructive, collecting and interpreting the data we receive from this collective to further refine and determine what the Madeleine story is all about in today’s world. This is not only about fashion, it’s a way of life. The objective is that through the next three collections, we will get to the fourth one, which will be the official launch of Vionnet,” in the summer of 2024, he said.

“Through these three capsule collections, the objective is to reach out to certain audiences and communities, engage with them beyond the product and develop a very specific audience that we would like to call a collective and to accompany us in this journey. The three capsules are really more messengers than anything else,” remarked Camperio.

The project is in line with the founder’s revolutionary views in the first half of the 20th century in terms of style but also her social battles, the protection of women’s rights and intellectual property. The rebirth of the house is based on her pioneering and innovative spirit, said the entrepreneur.

In April last year, ChimHaeres Investment Holding bought the entirety of Vionnet, with the ambition to revive the storied brand and become a new European luxury fashion and lifestyle pole.

The investment vehicle was formed by Chimera Abu Dhabi and Haeres Capital and it also acquired a majority stake in storied car designer Zagato, founded in 1919, and a majority stake in Fogal, the Swiss hosiery brand founded in 1921 by Léon Fogal. In addition, Haeres folded into the new vehicle its majority equity stake in historic hat manufacturer Borsalino, established in 1857 in Alessandria, Italy.

ChimHaeres is led by Camperio, who founded Haeres Capital in 2011, as chief executive officer.

He recruited Antonella Di Pietro, who has developed her career at brands ranging from Tommy Hilfiger to Tod’s, as CEO and chief branding officer of Vionnet.

She explained that the first capsule will revisit Vionnet signatures, paying tribute to the designer’s “incredible expertise,” with draping and twisted fabrics, or asymmetric mohair knits with geometric motifs, for example. A viscose minidress features fringes with trimmings — another Vionnet staple.  “The weights are super light in broderies on tulle, knits are almost transparent, to avoid constricting the body, as Madeleine Vionnet was a pioneer in liberating women,” said Di Pietro. “The volumes of knits are almost oversized but very light, and ponchos are also airy.” Three fabulous vintage custom jewels were revisited for the capsule.

Prices will range between 800 and 1,200 euros for knits, stand at around 1,700 euros for skirts and at 2,500 euros for dresses.

A Vionnet look from the first capsule collection.
A Vionnet look from the first capsule collection.

The French haute couture label founded in 1912 by Madeleine Vionnet has experienced some financial setbacks in recent years. In 2018, the brand and its operating company NVO Srl went through a voluntary liquidation.

Goga Ashkenazi, chairwoman and creative director of Vionnet, took control of Vionnet in 2012, when the Kazakhstan entrepreneur acquired the fashion house from co-owners Matteo Marzotto and former Marni CEO Gianni Castiglioni. The duo first invested in Vionnet in 2009 with the intent of giving new life to the French label.

Ashkenazi assumed the role of creative director in fall 2012, following the exit of sisters Barbara and Lucia Croce at the end of August that year, and staged several fashion shows in Milan. Before the Croce sisters, Vionnet was designed by Rodolfo Paglialunga, who was tapped by Marzotto and Castiglioni.

Camperio said his aim was to “remind the world” about Madeleine Vionnet, “who was she, what was her vision, her values,” asking himself, “what would her perception of the world be if she were alive today?”

He contended that this project “is about a lot more than fashion, what we want to share and communicate through both a message and of course the collections is the empathetic approach that Madeleine had towards the world. So the three capsules all have a theme, but the underlying message is to truly reposition Vionnet as a desirable brand, which carries a message beyond a product.”

He insisted on Vionnet’s modernity, a reason “why we will not be following the fashion calendar. I knew the relaunch had to be disruptive, innovative and visionary, because this is what Madeline Vionnet was at the time. And we are vested as the new owners with a mission to sustain that. It’s our responsibility. There will be several capsule drop collections every year, but done as a theme, rather than a trend. And the way we are going to commercialize our products is essentially on our website, at least for 2024.”

He does not exclude having physical points of sale, but in sync with the concept of limited editions, perhaps pop-ups in key cities, most likely starting with Paris.

Camperio said the fund is  “in the process of acquiring more brands,” and that the “intactness” of brands that have a legacy “is absolutely paramount to us.” He believes the Vionnet brand has never been damaged even in recent years under the former onwers.

“I like to go where others won’t or can’t. When we look at a brand, we need to see something that others may not see. And it requires a lot of thinking outside the box and reinventing models. But in any case we will never cannibalize the brand in search of more volumes or flooding the market; we’re simply not interested in that.”

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