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Vionnet Appoints Marc Audibet; Kokosalaki Out

Godfrey Deeny
May 21st, 2007 @ 00:27 AM - Paris

The legendary Paris fashion house of Madeleine Vionnet has appointed Marc Audibet as its new Artistic Advisor, a somewhat novel title in fashion.

Audibet succeeds Greek designer Sophia Kokosalaki, who will instead concentrate on developing her own label. The decision was not unexpected, ever since Diesel boss Renzo Rosso acquired a majority stake in Kokosalaki in January of this year.

Back then, both Rosso and Kokosalaki insisted that their partnership would have no effect in the designer's position as Creative Director of Vionnet, where she had been appointed in 2006. But observers, nonetheless, expected the Greek designer to severe her ties to the house.

Vionnet termed Audibet's appointment "a new step in the dynamic initiated in July 2006" of rebuilding the Paris house, which was launched by Madeline Vionnet back in 1912.

However, a press release from the house offered no explanation as to why Audibet's title was the more modest sounding Artistic Advisor, rather the more typical positions of Creative or Artistic Director, never mind the simple term Designer.

The press release, which rather incredulously, calls Audibet the "inventor of the Stretch," said the French-born designer would "innovate and modernize" Vionnet. The term stretch was first used in fashion in the Sixties, and while it's true Audibet played a major role in the development of elastic and Lycra mixed fabrics, these materials first appeared in collections created by the designer in the late Seventies.

That said, Audibet's use of stretch to create simple, malleable yet glamorous fashion means his style is very much in the same spirit as Vionnet.

Born in 1949, Audibet is a highly experienced designer who has done stints at such prestigious houses as Hermès, Trussardi and Ferragamo, in a career that has taken him from Italy to Japan. But perhaps his most marketable skills were probably those learned over nine seasons at Prada - the single most influential fashion brand of the current century – albeit his time with the Italian label was during the 1990s.

"We are delighted that Marc Audibet provides us, with all his sensibility to Vionnet, an enlarged vision of strategy and creativity" said Vionnet CEO Arnaud de Lummen, whose family acquired the Vionnet trademark back in 1988.

Audibet will unveil his first ideas for Vionnet with a Spring/Summer 2008 collection in early July during the Paris haute couture season, though not on a runway but by appointment only.

Madeleine Vionnet is an iconic designer in the world of fashion, credited with inventing the bias cut and regarded by many as of the greatest dressmaker of the 20th century. A unique mixture of glamour and simplicity, Vionnet’s aesthetic appealed to many stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, notably Marlène Dietrich and Greta Garbo.

Vionnet opened her first boutique in Paris at 50 Ave Montaigne in 1923 and in New York store in 1925. Her house grew to employ 1,200 seamstresses, and was the first to create prêt-a-porter designs from haute couture for the US market.

Vionnet closed down her house as World War II broke out in 1939, dying in 1975 at the venerable age of 99.

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