French ski maker Rossignol to push into fashion

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French ski maker Rossignol has hired a former Pierre Balmain executive to direct its push into fashion clothing with plans to open six boutiques in the Alps and take part in Milan Fashion Week. Rossignol will be rivaling luxury down jacket maker Moncler , one of Italy’s biggest success stories which built its business on a growing appetite for chic outdoor wear, as well as Finnish company Amer Sport’s Arcteryx.

French ski maker Rossignol to push into fashion

But while jackets will be among Rossignol’s flagship products the company also plans to develop a broader range of skiing, après-ski and urban clothing collections, Alessandro Locatelli, who joined Rossignol this year, told Reuters in an interview.

“I would like the brand to express the fusion of technology with elegance,” said Locatelli, who ran fashion brand Pierre Balmain’s Hong Kong operations and before that fashion licence businesses at Italy’s Itierre, such as Just Cavalli and C’N’C Costume National.

Following years of weak demand, Rossignol returned to profit in 2010 after cutting jobs and rationalising production facilities and product lines. Expanding its clothing business would reduce its dependence on the winter season and tap a market which is growing rapidly as more people venture out of cities to spend time in nature.

One of the world’s biggest and oldest ski brands, Rossignol aims to increase the portion of revenue it earns from ski wear significantly from 10 percent currently, Locatelli said. Total sales amounted to 241 million euros ($256 million) in its last financial year ended March 31.

Last month Locatelli opened an office for newly created unit Rossignol Apparel in Milan’s chic Corso Venezia, where many luxury and fashion brands have offices and shops.

He said Rossignol would be revamping its boutique in Chamonix and opening shops in Megeve, Courmayer, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Crans Montana and St Moritz over the next few months.

Rossignol is controlled by private equity firm Altor, which financed the turnaround of Norwegian clothing brand Helly Hansen. Private equity firm Sandbridge Capital took a minority stake in Rossignol last year to fund its expansion in clothing.

Sandbridge has stakes in fashion brands Derek Lam, Top Shop, Tamara Mellon and Karl Lagerfeld, and counts Tommy Hilfiger and former Gucci head Domenico De Sole among its advisers.

By Astrid Wendlandt Courtesy Reuters

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