CULTURE

Sophia Kokosalaki strikes exciting deal

She burst onto the fashion scene as fresh talent and soon became the talk of the town as one of the industry’s greatest hopes. Now Sophia Kokosalaki is taking yet another great leap ahead. Earlier this week, Staff International, the Italian manufacturing company operating under the umbrella of Only the Brave, announced the acquisition of the majority capital of Sophia Kokosalaki, the brand. The man behind both Italian companies is Renzo Rosso, owner of Diesel, the maverick fashion businessman who turned the cool jeans brand into the global leader of luxury denim. «Renzo is a great business person, he is very easygoing and he understands. Staff International is a healthy company growing steadily and they respect their designers. What is very important to me is that they strike a balance between creativity and the commercial aspect. The deal took over a year to be finalized and I am 100 percent sure that I made the right choice,» Kokosalaki told Kathimerini English Edition in a phone interview. Though the sale figure was not disclosed, investment in the brand will rise to dozens of million euros in the next few years. News of the fresh partnership comes at an exciting time for Kokosalaki, appointed creative director at Madeleine Vionnet last year. Her efforts to revive the legendary French fashion house – which is owned by the De Lummen family – will continue independently to the development of her own brand. The 33-year-old Greek designer joins a select group of colleagues doing business with Staff International, given that the company collaborates in the manufacturing and distribution of brands such as Dsquared2, Vivienne Westwood and Martin Margiela (the reclusive designer’s fashion house is also controlled by Rosso). While Staff International presented a turnover of over -110 million last year, a few months ago the Diesel boss took control of Pier, yet another manufacturing unit of top brands including Chloe, Dries Van Noten, Azzedine Alaia and Dior Homme. Unlike the industry’s leading luxury groups, namely LVMH (Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton is the owner of major brands such as Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Celine, Kenzo, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs and Donna Karan) and rival PPR Group (managing Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, among others), Rosso is less corporate, driven by pure desire. «I believe that part of my mission is the search for young promising talents outside of the ordinary. I have never made any acquisition only to increase the profit of the group, but exclusively because I am passionate about the art and sensibility of certain designers,» said Rosso in a statement. «In Sophia, I have found someone who is able to communicate emotions via her creations, and knows how to develop alternative fashion for today’s woman. I am certain that soon enough, the Sophia Kokosalaki brand will become a major player in the world of contemporary luxe.» To achieve this, Staff International will stay away from the creative aspect, aiding the Sophia Kokosalaki brand to grow through logistics, finance, manufacturing and branding know-how. According to Kokosalaki, initial investment will focus on developing the collections and the brand’s worldwide visibility, while freestanding stores are in the cards beginning in 2008. Not bad at all for the Athens-born-and-bred Kokosalaki, who studied at the University of Athens before graduating from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. After launching her first women’s collection in London in 1999, the designer went on to develop her signature style and is nowadays a member of the Paris fashion week calendar. The recipient of numerous awards, Kokosalaki designed the costumes for the opening ceremony of the Athens 2004 Olympics. A debut joint venture between Kokosalaki and Staff International is scheduled to take place during the Fall/Winter 2007 shows in Paris in March.