In 1971, Vilebrequin’s founder, Fred Prysquel, (then an automobile journalist covering Formula 1 racing) was on vacation in St. Tropez. There he found himself trying to impress a woman of interest, when he realized how unsatisfied he was with his beach attire. He daydreamed of a suit that would satisfy his taste—a garment well constructed, design-savvy, and flattering to his form. So he sewed his own, eventually others noticed, and he launched a business for the beach. Ever since, Vilebrequin has been producing high-quality swimwear with an artistic flair.
“The territory of the brand is a family on vacation,” said CEO, Roland Herlory. The brand’s team produces more than 30 prints in Paris every season and it is noted for its colorful artistic collaborations. Starting with Massimo Vitali in 2015, it has partnered with the Rolling Stones, Alex Israel, and Karl Lagerfeld.
Whitewaller spoke to Herlory about the brand’s evolution, and its new print designed in collaboration with the American painter Donald Sultan.
WHITEWALLER: Vilebrequin is launching a new print with Donald Sultan. In the past, you’ve worked with many artists and art foundations, and have spoken about your inspiration from art and artists. When did these collaborations begin? Why?
ROLAND HERLORY: Vilebrequin is by essence a brand full of creativity. Collaborations give new perspectives to the Vilebrequin spectrum. It’s a way to bring new inspiration and to collaborate with amazing artists, designers, and brands that share our vision on how to enjoy life. We mix our worlds in order to find a common path. It is very exciting. It is rejuvenating, and it pushes a little bit further the boundaries of our natural territory.
The response from our clients has been very positive for each of these collaborations. We always select artists who are connected to our roots and our spirit: Massimo Vitali is well known for his beach photography; Alex Israel’s artwork is filled with L.A. spirit (and our shorts were inspired by Californian boxer shorts back in the 1970s); and Karl and the Rolling Stones are emblematic figures of St. Tropez…
WW: Why was Sultan an artist you wanted to work with?
RH: Donald Sultan has encountered Fred Prysquel, Vilebrequin’s founder, many times in St. Tropez in the 1970s while he lived in the harbor. He knew and used the brand from its beginning. But besides this fortunate encounter, the aesthetic of Sultan’s work has a lot to do with the Vilebrequin spirit: colorful, Pop, and a bit adventurous.
WW: On the new print, there’s Sultan’s signature, which makes it feel like a collector’s item. It seems Vilebrequin is elevating swimwear to become a piece of art to own, and not just wear. Was that an intention you had for the company from the beginning, or did that evolve?
RH: It seemed only natural to integrate the artist’s signature within our logo. It shows that this print is the result of a partnership, and for that it is special. We put all our efforts to make every swimsuit a piece of art by having a consistent quality, whether limited edition, collaboration, or main collection.
WW: What makes a Vilebrequin product special?
RH: Vilebrequin embodies the art of enjoying life and living forever on vacation, as did the great icons of St. Tropez in the seventies, the time the brand was born. Times have evolved, and now we need to constantly reinvent and reinterpret ourselves and to stay a strong brand and bring fantasy to our clients’ holidays. With our Father and Son concept, for example, we want to help each person to find their inner child and have fun.