From preppy Nantucket pool gatherings to posh Nice plages, Vilebrequin—the French bathing suit and ready-to-wear label founded in St. Tropez in 1971—is a bona fide summer staple. If you’ve traveled to these places—or really, any waterside locale known for its wealth—you’ve likely seen the brand’s unmistakable blue tag with its prominent, arched white logo sewn onto the backside of men’s waistbands. (Vilebrequin was menswear-focused for its first few decades, introducing boys’ designs in 1995 and a women’s component in 2013.) Its suits reflect an upbeat marine joie de vivre, with bright aquatic or animal prints, polychrome patterns and, in recent years, clever graphic collaborations (including a hot-selling partnership with Off-White, the popular fashion label founded by Virgil Abloh). CEO Roland Herlory recognizes that he’s at the helm of a heritage brand, but nevertheless believes that all brands must move into the future and diversify—and he’s thoughtful about this stewardship.
“For 50 years, the secret to Vilebrequin has been to mix extreme fantasy with elegance and quality,” Herlory says over a call from Cannes, the tony French Riviera city known for its seaside charm and prestigious film festival. “That’s really the recipe of the brand, but we are always developing it.”
Partnerships have been one way to expand the Vilebrequin brand. For summer 2023, for example, it is collaborating with St. Regis Hotels & Resorts to produce a capsule collection inspired by anticipated resort openings in Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Then there are artist crossovers with Kenny Scharf, the American painter who rose to fame in the 1980s, and Mickalene Thomas, the contemporary artist based in New York.
“Kenny’s print is superb—it’s the second time we’ve worked with him. And Mickalene’s is a really important collaboration,” says Herlory. “It presents a very strong image, elaborate and beautiful, called Deux Femmes Noires. It’s always interesting to collaborate because you push the boundaries of your natural territory in a new direction.”
Speaking of physical space, Vilebrequin also recently opened a beach club in Cannes, an additional novel concept for the company. It is permanent but seasonal, following the sun.
“This idea is new to our mix,” says Herlory. “Vilebrequin is a family company—summertime, holidays, these are moments you can dedicate to family. And we know these are privileged moments. So the idea is that we welcome all ages, kids to grandparents, with games, activities, recreation and more.”
Another important factor in Vilebrequin’s evolution: It is greener than you might think. “Today, 95 percent of the whole production of the brand is what we call eco-responsible,” says Herlory. “And 100 percent of the bathing suits are fully sustainable. So my goal is to go beyond and be able to bring back more natural fibers into this world of swimming.”
So loyal are Vilebrequin’s customers, though, that Herlory knows he has to tread lightly when it comes to any major steps forward. “It’s not that I’m slow,” he says. “I just really believe that time is needed to succeed. I’m in no rush to develop too quickly, in too many directions. You need time to do things well, honestly.”