The New York designer label Rosie Assoulin, known for its founder’s exuberant and feminine occasion wear, has signed on with the longstanding Milan-based High Italian Manufacturing as a licensing partner to manufacture its ready-to-wear, footwear and accessories collections and distribute them outside North America.
The deal marks a new strategy for the closely held family business, run by designer Rosie Assoulin and her husband, chief executive officer Max Assoulin, with a focus on growth and stability coming out of a challenging year. It also marks the first time the 8-year-old label has partnered with a sales or production partner or moved to produce most of its collections outside of New York City.
Max told BoF the tie-up will allow the business to focus on designing and marketing the label’s four yearly collections and further expand outside of the US, its most important market, and through expanding categories, including a line of vegan footwear and accessories, and widening the assortment of ready-to-wear.
For independent designers like Rosie Assoulin, partnering with firms like HIM Co that offer multiple services and incubate several labels at once provides an avenue for growth without traditional financial backing. The strategy has become more popular in recent years as the wholesale market has become less stable and required faster turnarounds in product and collection delivery.
“What we’ve been thinking a lot about, pre-Covid, was sustainability from a business perspective,” said Max. “It’s a crazy business. Part of this was saying to ourselves — How could we rethink how we design and deliver collections to the industry, to the public, and get those collections into retail? The guiding principle was that we really want to be able to focus on the things that we felt we were really good at.”
With HIM Co’s experience and resources, the label will also have more freedom creatively, Max said, through support with fabric development and fit, among other points. The Assoulins will continue to manage sales in the brand’s home turf in North America, and plan to continue to travel to show their collections abroad in cities including Paris, Covid permitting.
“What we saw in this brand is a unique point of view really different from everybody else ... a sensibility that is really modern and of our time,” said David Polisano, HIM Co’s fashion director. He said the firm plans to help Rosie Assoulin translate her point-of-view into knitwear and other apparel categories like tailoring that will appeal to more shoppers and retailers, especially outside of the US.
During the pandemic, Rosie Assoulin reduced the size of its collections and temporarily paused new collections for its secondary label, By Any Other Name. (The Assoulins also founded a natural wine label, Vivanterre, last August.)
“The focus was on sell-through and maintaining,” said Max, adding that the brand’s collections will gradually expand over the next several seasons.
The strategy has worked, he said, and Rosie Assoulin’s spring collection reached 50 percent sell-through at Net-a-Porter in the first two weeks after delivery, and its resort 2021 collection has been recut, or reordered from manufacturers, four times. “Our business and budgets continue to grow,” Max said.
Fabio Ducci, HIM Co’s chief executive, said the firm’s philosophy historically has been to introduce young and emerging designers on a global level, and he sees retailers are more open to taking risks again this spring, coming out of a crisis that favoured the largest and most established brands.
“It’s clear that our organisation ... with our network, with our showroom with our subsidiaries we can offer another [type of] support to them,” he said.
High Italian Manufacturing, formerly known as Onward Luxury Group, produces ready-to-wear, footwear, knitwear and leather goods collections across six factories it owns or co-owns in Italy and counts showrooms in Paris, Milan and New York. It has licensing agreements to produce collections from JW Anderson and See By Chloé in footwear and Brock Collection across all categories, among others. The firm is also leading a creative relaunch at Rochas with the brand’s owner with Interparfums, also through a licensing agreement, and owns the footwear focused labels F_WD and Carlotha Ray.
With other senior managers, Ducci acquired control of the Italian group in December from its former parent, the Japanese group Onward Holdings LTD as it exited its fashion businesses. Onward, which also owns Joseph and J.Press, sold Jil Sander to Italy’s OTB in March.