Do you remember the sleeping beauty fairytale, where the beautiful princess is woken up by the kiss of her charming prince from a long, long deep sleep? Well, metaphorically speaking, that’s just what’s happened three years ago to one of the greatest fashion brands of the past century, which was founded exactly 100 years ago: Madeleine Vionnet, the french couturier considered the woman who set free the women’s body from the constrictions of XIX-XX century clothing shapes. While the prince is an italian entrepreneur actually ‘charming’: Matteo Marzotto. “I just fell in love with this project. I submitted it to two capable friends of mine (Gianni Castiglioni, co-founder and CEO Marni, and Marco Chiarion Casoni, ex Valentino), and we turned it to a brand in a few months and managed to carry it forward”, tells Marzotto to the students of La Sapienza university at the XIII conference of “I Professionisti della Moda“, held on april 26th. “Our experience is quite small, but well-appreciated”.
The re-launch of maison Vionnet was according to Marzotto a “both phisical and mental effort”, since the actual market, saturate in fashion brands, didn’t seem to have much space for a “sleeping beauty” – as he likes to call it – like Vionnet. But in 2008 Marzotto took over the brand, and in 2009 had his chance: “The Louvre was presenting a retrospective of Madeleine Vionnet in September to celebrate her as the woman who invented modern fashion, so we decided to make up the company in just four months. I used all my connections to invite people at the showroom, I sent mail and messages and I made calls myself, and when the costumers finally went to see the collection, we presented them almost two hundred items proving our hard work”. He smiles remembering a couple of funny anecdotes from this ‘start-up’: “I used to work in big strong brands, this is the very first time for me to face the launch of a medium-small company starting from the scratch. At our first presentation in Paris I was sitting out of our showroom next to the Tour Eiffel on the way to Lanvin’s presentation, stopping every person that I knew to invite them to take a look at Vionnet…until I was ‘discovered’ and had to stop. And for our first press conference I organized the event in my own house, inviting all italian and foreign fashion journalists I knew expecting 30, 40 at most. Well, they came in 91, and I didn’t know where to put them. The young designer was shaking like a leaf with fear”. (The designer was Rodolfo Paglialunga, replaced in 2012 by Barbara and Lucia Croce). But since then Vionnet has grown up with a discreet success, passing from 17 to 37 employers, 500 pieces a season with a total of 1.000 a year, and from a annual turnover of 5 million € to more than 7 million in less than three years, opening a store in Milan, next to piazza San Babila, and dressing up celebrities such as Diane Kruger, Natalie Portman, and Madonna, who chosed to wear the newborn Vionnet at Venezia film festival in 2011 (“that was a great shot!”).
“We’re a rather small company with all the problems of the current period, but we’re investing in the quality of our product and in communication to let it be known even between a young target, who may have never heard such a big name as Madeleine Vionnet. As she created for the most influential ladies of her time, our aim is not to make this brand too commercial through normal advertising, yet to communicate it through sophisticated celebrities”, explains Marzotto. “We have limited possibilities but a well-defined business plan as well as a clear product identity and label positioning upon the market. Our benchmark is the light knee-dress, but we also present a re-interpretation of Vionnet’s milestones like the drapes she took from ancient greek pepols, the angle cut, the contrasts between different colours and materials, the uncovered décolleté and the inlays”. When Matteo Marzotto acquired the brand, even a couturier like Valentino admitted that all modern designers had copied from her, and that she was a brilliant visionary.“We not on a start-up anymore”, concludes Marzotto, “but there’s still a lot to do. You must do the most with the least: we work hard on our product to make clients feel sexy while wearing our clothes, and then realizing how god the quality is, still with a reasonable price.
This is certainly the best product I have worked with”.
Matteo Marzotto on Moda Sapienza – video by Francesca Berton