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Vilebrequin's 40th Anniversary limited edition swim trunks.

By Tali Jaffe

Summer is in full swing. Colors are bright. Fabrics are light. And there’s nothing more expressive of a care-free summer than Vilebrequin swim trunks. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the St. Tropez-born brand, and what better way to celebrate the occasion than with a new limited-edition print? We caught up with the brand’s Managing Director of the Americas, Brian Lange, to discuss how Vilebrequin came to be, if we’ll ever see a women’s swimsuit and exactly how to pronounce our favorite swim trunks.

It’s unusual for a brand to remain so close to its roots over a span of 40 years. What do you attribute to the success of the brand?
We’re lucky to have been created in St. Tropez during the 1970’s. It was a time in this quaint seaside town on the French Riviera that really left a mark on the brand—it was a time of anything goes! Eccentricity was the rule…trends were launched by well-known artists and designers, but also by many unknowns at the time. This freedom and the embracing of new concepts allowed for the magic that is Vilebrequin.  Our DNA is this creativity and freedom, combined with a relaxed, elegant style that came from St. Tropez; be chic in your swim trunks without taking yourself too seriously.

Those patterned board shorts have all but defined destinations like Harbour Island, Mustique, St. Barths and of course, Saint Tropez. How did Vilebrequin become the standard for luxury Beach wear?
An extremely strong connection has developed over the years between our clients and our products. Our clients are talking about their “Vilebrequins” and not just their swimsuit. They remain extremely faithful to the brand—our swim trunks are collector’s pieces and our clients love to expand their collection each season!

It is, foremost, by the quality of our products that we became remarkably distinguished as the standard. No other brand gives as much importance to the quality of the swimsuit, the fit and comfort of the cut, and the quality of the fabric printing.

What are some of the celebration plans for this major anniversary?
In honor of our 40th Anniversary, we have entered into a truly complimentary partnership with Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau, who founded Plant a Fish, a foundation for the conservancy of endangered sea species. This year, our joint project will focus on the Hawksbill turtle, one of the most endangered sea turtle species. Our designer, Zaza, has created a unique turtle-themed swim collection that will benefit Plant a Fish; for each item purchased from this collection, we will donate a portion of the proceeds to support our joint conservation program.

Also, in celebration of our Anniversary, Zaza has created a truly unique collector’s piece.  In her words, her inspiration was to “celebrate the quintessential Vilebrequin prints and create a swim trunk photo album of them…. a mini retrospective of Vilebrequin.”  This swim trunk was produced in a 2,100-piece collector’s series and was created using a 17-color inkjet method (this process is generally used in scarf printing, by Hermes for example, in order to reproduce the richness of so many different colors).

Outside of swimwear, what have been some of the most successful additions to the label?
Vilebrequin is also well known for our classic linen shirts; these are by far our most successful complement to our swimwear, followed closely by our linen cargo shorts, pants, cotton tees and polo shirts. With every collection we introduce the complimentary colors for our swim line.

How often are new patterns introduced?
Twice a year, we introduce a new collection, consisting of anywhere from 40 to 50 unique and original swim prints. We have something for nearly everyone’s style.

Is there one pattern that has sold consistently well over the years?
While we never reproduce the same print from collection to collection, we always have a variation of our signature sea turtle represented each season. It’s an extremely sought after motif and the classic insignia of Vilebrequin.

Will a women’s suit ever come out?
Our requests for a women’s line are countless! Stay tuned.

Do you ever have female clients buying swim trunks for themselves?
All of the time. For many years now, women have worn the men’s trunks as shorts, and they’re great as a cover-up. Women also love our bags, towels and even our terry polo shirts.

Currently there are five different types of trunks—including boys—are there plans for any additions?
In the U.S. our core styles are the MOOREA (classic original), OKOA (longer version of the Moorea), OCEAN (our board short), JIM/JAM (the junior styles) and this season the MERISE (a shorter, fitted style). We genegrally introduce one new style each season to complement the collection.

Who designs the new patterns? Is it a team effort?
Our Artistic Director, Zaza, has designed all of our swim collections for the past decade. The soul of Vilebrequin, she and her team work diligently year round to create the magic that is Vilebrequin!

Where is the company based?
While our soul and essence will forever be based in St Tropez, our corporate headquarters are currently based in Geneva, Switzerland.

And the question so many want to know, how do you pronounce Vilebrequin?
VEAL – BRO – CAN (“N” silent)

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