Richemont puts an end to the AZ Factory label, which is transformed into an academy for young designers

Richemont puts an end to the AZ Factory label, which is transformed into an academy for young designers
Richemont puts an end to the AZ Factory label, which is transformed into an academy for young designers

Launched four years ago, the AZ Factory brand is ending as a commercial entity. But the adventure continues in another form. The democratic fashion house desired by Alber Elbaz, born from a partnership with the Swiss luxury group Richemont shortly before the death of the emblematic Israeli-American designer on April 24, 2021, announces a new stage. It is transformed into “AZ Academy”, a training program to help and support fashion designers who have already graduated to develop their own house.

The last AZ Factory fashion show, dedicated to summer 2024, was held last October – © Launchmetrics

As the Swiss group indicates in a press release, “this year, as part of a new chapter in the company’s development, AZ Factory will move from current commercial activity to the launch of AZ Academy: Business for designers” (AZ Academy: company for designers) through the Richemont Creative Academy and in partnership with the Accademia Costume & Moda (ACM)”, a historic Italian fashion school.

With the premature death of Alber Elbaz, just after launching his first collection, Richemont decided to continue this fashion project, rethinking it around a collective creation system. From there, the house approached a series of young designers inviting them to sign capsule collections. Stylists who have already launched their own brand, such as Thebe Magugu or Ester Manas, more assertive independent designers, such as Lutz Huelle or Colville with Lucinda Chambers and Molly Molloy, or even great beginners such as Jenny Hytönen.

The idea today is to continue around the concept “smart fashion that cares” (intelligent and attentive fashion) developed by AZ Factory and to go further. With AZ Academy, Richemont says it wants to fill a gap, “by offering a unique program designed to equip creators with the skills and knowledge necessary to transform their creative ideas into successful businesses that can attract investors”. It is aimed in particular at “emerging creative talents and new designers, who aspire to launch their own brand after graduating from international fashion schools” .

From May 2024, they are invited to apply to the AZ Academy, whether they are “emerging designers with proven talent (fashion, leather goods, accessories), recently graduated designers or professional designers already in the field. industry at a crossroads in their careers. Between 10 and 20 of them will be selected next September by a jury of fashion industry professionals, and will be awarded a scholarship, endorsed by Richemont, allowing them to follow a sort of super-specialized master’s degree, on a period of twelve months in Milan from January 2025, specifies the luxury group.

Create a bridge between designers and investors

On the program, topics such as creativity, innovation, sustainability, production, finance, law, marketing, inclusiveness, as well as an immersive experience with suppliers and mentoring. The goal is to prepare participants to present themselves to potential investors with a collection and a business plan.

“With the AZ Academy, we will create a bridge between designers and investors transforming creative visions into viable economic plans to attract investors. What better way to pay tribute to Alber Elbaz?”, summarizes Mauro Grimaldi, who led AZ Factory as strategic advisor to Philippe Fortunato, CEO of the Richemont Fashion and Accessories division.

In fact, AZ Factory had already been preparing its transition for some time. Last January, the label gave up showing, offering its slot during Haute Couture Week to Lutz Huelle, as well as a budget to organize his show. The German designer has been collaborating with the house for a year and a half designing the pre-collections, of which the one for fall 2024 was therefore the last collection from AZ Factory.

As the company tells us, “concerning the current activity of AZ Factory, no new collections will be introduced, but the e-commerce site will remain operational until the end of July, so that customers can purchase the remaining products and get the assistance they need. This transformation into AZ Academy will clearly lead the company to reorganize itself. “For employees impacted by these changes, all measures have been communicated and prepared in coordination with their representatives. We support each employee individually to find the best solution within the group,” assures the latter.

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