Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Face-Lift! A New Generation Buzz

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Face-Lift! A New Generation Buzz

Article excerpt

Vionnet gets a new store and Valentino refurbishes its retail image.

Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy is cleaning up the country, at least metaphorically, and giving it a fresh start. And so it is in the fashion city of Milan.

A new generation is changing the bricks and mortar -- or rather the shiny white marble -- that has ruled for two decades over stores in the city's golden shopping triangle.

Along Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga, redecoration (let's call it face-lifts) are rejuvenating famous name stores.

For Vionnet, it is a very new beginning: the first store for the sleeping beauty of a brand, that is joined-by-the-fashion-hip to Paris and to Madeleine Vionnet of the 1920s.

But the brand was bought by Matteo Marzotto in a neat reversal of a current trend for French corporate groups to buy Italian brands, as happened with Fendi and Pucci and more recently with the Roman jeweler Bulgari.

"It's step by step," Mr. Marzotto said. "We are really being attentive to the investment, especially with the credit crunch in Italy. But things are looking up."

He also said that he was already selling the brand in 185 stores across the world.

The shop has a secret: a private door at the back of the elegant shopping area that leads to a studio. There, not only are samples made, but the seamstresses offer a "demi couture" service to clients, who can have designs adapted or made to measure.

The twin sister designers Barbara and Lucia Croce, whose first full collection will be shown in Paris this season, have said that they try to follow the feminine, graceful lines of Madame Vionnet and her famous drapes, while making clothes appropriate to modern times.

The store, on Corso Monforte 16, is divided into four areas, now displaying the early summer collection that includes flowered dresses with a hint of the 1920s and '30s, when Madame Vionnet excelled. The straight lines of the architecture and details like the scaly metal borders of display cabinets also echo the Art Deco period.

But while the duo might be able to trace the heritage of the brand in everything they design, a pair of pumps with elephants beaded at the toes suggest a sunny modern translation of the Vionnet look. …

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