By Sharon Hirschowitz
The story behind the French luxury swimwear brand, Vilebrequin, is dreamy, spirited and inspirational. Their dedication to true style, quality, and an endless summer comes across in their vibrant prints and interesting collaborations. In this interview, Roland Herlory dips into their story, successful partnerships, and the way forward.
I believe that Vilebrequin originated in St.Tropez in 1971 and has a romantic story attached to it. Please do tell us more.
Yes! Vilebrequin was born in St Tropez in the 70’s, a time of freedom, careless elegance and strong creativity. Vilebrequin was created by Fred Prysquel, an automobile journalist who fell in love in this beautiful, quaint harbor. He created his own pair of swim shorts to seduce a woman…because he did not feel that the options were very flattering at the time. He ended up marrying his loved one and their love story resulted in the creation of this brand that carries an important philosophy: live as if Summer would never end.
What do you believe is the success behind your brand? How do you differentiate yourself?
Vilebrequin comes from a time where a lot of things were being reinvented: the 70’s was the beginning of a new era in terms of freedom of the body and the mind. People pushed boundaries, and they did it with natural sophistication. We have this legacy to uphold at Vilebrequin. No other brand has this kind of heritage and expertise. We try our best to carry the perfect combination of quality and imagination. Quality is a very serious issue for us, but our products have to be fun, light and full of humor, because holidays are all about that. Most of our clients work all year in dark suits. Only during their holidays, do they allow themselves a little humor and freedom. Vilebrequin’s expertise is the delicate and fine line between elegance and lightheartedness. In addition, we were one of the first brands to introduce the Father and Son concept in the 90’s – matching swimsuits for all ages – which has become part of our DNA.
Can you tell us about recent collaborations with artists?
Collaborations are a very important part of our universe at Vilebrequin. It’s amazing to work with great artists and brands that share the same vision of enjoying life and its best moments. Currently, we have amazing collaborations such as Karl Lagerfeld and Massimo Vitali, which have had extremely positive feedback! We have an upcoming collaboration with American Artist Donald Sultan before the end of the year. Collaborations are the perfect way to renew our energy and presence as a brand; the perfect combination between our values and heritage, with a great touch of fresh inspiration from our partners.
You are continuing to expand globally. How strong is the luxury market?
The luxury market is very powerful, yet challenging. We are now facing plenty of changes in the marketplace, especially with digitalization and the evolution of the way people consume goods. We no longer talk about buying…people want to have experiences. They are concerned with their well-being and their leisure. The way consumers interact with brands needs to be reinvented. It is exactly because of these new consumption trends that we want to focus ourselves on the customer experience, notably with a big plunge into the hotel and resort industry; a segment that has everything to do with our brand’s DNA. We have a very international clientele who travels a lot, especially to 5-star hotels, resorts, and palaces. Vilebrequin is the perfect synergy to help answer the needs and desires of hotel guests while on their vacations.
We work successfully with a few hundred hotels and resorts that have chosen one (or more) of our business models for their lifestyle offering; from freestanding boutiques inside hotel lobbies (like Marina Bay Sands, in Singapore), to exclusive custom embroidered swimsuits (The Royal Monceau, in Paris), to staff uniforms. We can improve the way our clients enjoy their vacation. We are able to transform the customer experience at these holiday destinations thanks to our partners such as our head of Wholesale, Stephen Budd, who is key to expanding this market segment in which we see such great potential.
Who is your target market? What are they looking for when they choose your brand?
Our target has always been anyone who wants to enjoy themselves and their holidays in elegant, but fun attire.
We expanded our offer from mens and boys to womens and girls; from swimsuits to ready-to-wear and accessories. Everyone can find the perfect outfit to enjoy their vacation. In terms of market, by extending our outreach to attain even more hotels and resorts, we emphasize the “forever on vacation” lifestyle. This focus can help raise awareness that our brand can be present during any season and on any type of vacation – at the beach, of course, but also in the mountains, or even at a spa (we also have a ski collection). We extended our offering so that anyone is able to find what they are looking for in Vilebrequin, not only in terms of product and quality, but also in terms of spirit and situation. After all, who doesn’t love to plan their vacation? From the hotel you will stay at, to the swimsuit you will wear, all of these experiences are connected and should be enjoyed.
Your ladies and girls wear range is fairly recent, as well as your sunglasses and watches. What has the response been?
Our women’s and accessories collections are a recent initiative for us, but an obvious one. Half of our existing clientele are women buying for their loved ones. As we examined our offering for men, we saw a great opportunity to adapt to for women’s need. We started with a few items, and now have a whole range of products. We are also expanding this vision and developing special prints for women, and even trying new materials, like neoprene. In the accessories category, we have high-quality watches and sunglasses. It’s a way to extend and keep the Vilebrequin spirit from head to toe. Since we have launched these collections, the response has been extremely positive from our clients who are always looking for that extra special touch to add to their vacation wardrobe.