Best location, new concept, a showcase: The French group Rossignol, market leader in ski equipment, has opened a new 244-sq.-meter shop on two floors in Paris, right next to the Opera, on Boulevard des Capucines. For the Grenoble-based brand, which was founded in 1907 and until then had only had its own shops in ski resorts (Chamonix, Megève, Val Thorens, Méribel, St. Moritz and Crans Montana), the Paris branch, in the heart of the city, is a milestone. The store is intended to bring the brand’s rich history and also–above all–the new contemporary fashion orientation division to the attention of the urban public. The shop is also a showcase for the new fashion division. Alessandro Locatelli, CEO of Rossignol's apparel division, explains what Rossignol intends to do with its fashion line.
The apparel division was founded in 2015, and since 2016 its products have been in the fashion market. How has this area developed since then?
Very well. We've tripled sales since then. Today, our collection comprises about 400 items for men, women and children. There are shoes, glasses and already a few accessories. Especially the shoes are running very well.
The collection is divided into three styles: functional skiwear, après-ski and urbanwear…
Yes, but all of that is "apparel" for us, because we do not want to make a big difference here. Of course, the brand comes from the world of ski. This is the history of the brand, which is over 110 years old. In this sport they are associated with legends. Ski is part of our DNA. But we take the topic a lot further. If someone wears a Rossignol jacket on the slopes and then goes out in the same jacket in the evening, we have done everything right.
As a sports specialist, expanding into urbanwear is currently in vogue, such as your competitors Moncler, Fusalp, Pyrenex etc. Why is it so important today to position yourself here?
The market has changed a lot in recent years: It used to be cool to smoke and drive a big car. Today it's “in” to live healthily and do yoga or wellness. The outdoor trend has long since conquered the city. And so the impulse for us came from the market. Our customers wanted clothing from Rossignol. We are market leaders in the ski sector, the brand presents this world: the racing and the lifestyle around it. These values should now also be authentically reproduced in fashion.
How? By combining technology with fashion?
Exactly. All our models fulfill functions or contain smart textiles such as membranes. The relationship between function and fashion varies depending on the intended use of the garment. For skiwear we have two-thirds performance and one-third fashion, for après-ski clothes the ratio is balanced and for urbanwear we assume the rule “one-third performance and two-thirds fashion.” Many of the functional details that we have developed for skiwear can also be found in urbanwear.
Can you give examples?
There was always a problem with down jackets that water has penetrated at the seam. We have now solved this problem by an overlap, for which we even have a patent. Then we used the super-elastic and very comfortable material of the Flyknit sneakers for sleeves and shoulders for the first time. This is a very simple idea, but nobody has done it before us, because the material is very expensive. In almost all of our zippers, a neoprene lining protects the zipper from getting caught or injured when closing. And the street shoes are made by the same company that makes the ski boots for us. The sole is absolutely non-slip, the boot is insulated inside, waterproof and like ski boots equipped with pressure pads.
How do you communicate this?
Here, you are addressing a sore point. I am not yet satisfied with the communication. But at the new shop in Paris, which will be followed by another at “rive gauche“ (Boulevard Saint-Germain), there is supposed to be a shop window to better inform customers. But we still have a lot to do here.
Prices range from €400 to €800. Where do you see Rossignol in the market?
We see ourselves as a premium brand. We don't want to be a luxury brand or a designer brand, because that doesn't fit in with Rossignol's brand history.
Nevertheless, you work together with designers in cooperations.
That's true. We have been associated with Jean-Charles de Castelabajac for four years. He is now a friend of the brand. We worked with Tommy Hilfiger, then with Andrea Pompillo and also with Wallpaper. For the coming summer there is a capsule for women and men with Damir Doma. The selection of the designers is in my hands. Depending on the designer the size is different. With Castelbajac we only make women, but in all three areas ski, après-ski and urban. With Damir Doma we have worked on the theme of heritage and urban mobility. The Rossignol Group also has a cycling division and for us bikers are the new heroes of the city. That's why this urbanwear collection has a lot of details that come from cycling.
Do the designers have a "carte blanche"?
No. I pay a lot of attention to the DNA of Rossignol, which has to be respected. The new capsule with Damir Doma therefore consists almost exclusively of the typical Rossignol colors: blue, white, red. In addition there is black, but only because women want it today.
The Rossignol Group has acquired a number of other brands in recent years, such as Raidlight-Vertical and Felt Bicycles, and has thus also purchased know-how. Do you work with them?
Of course, in December 2017 we took over Dale of Norway. This Norwegian knitting specialist is even older than Rossignol and has the same values. Next season we will produce at least five models together with Dale of Norway. Clearly, we are looking for synergies within the group.
Rossignol has been based in Grenoble since its foundation, but the apparel division is based in Milan. Why?
Paris is the center of couture and luxury. Milan is the center of sportswear. All the companies and specialists who can produce this fashion are also based there.