Elizabeth Kutesko

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA021

Byblos, whose name derives from a hotel in St. Tropez, France, is an Italian ready-to-wear brand founded in 1973 as a division of Italian fashion company Genny Holding SpA, and became an independent company in 1983. Initially brought to life by Gianni Versace and Guy Paulin, in 1981 British duo Alan Cleaver and Keith Varty took over as the principal designers, with collections that included Byblos Uomo (1983), Byblos USA (1985), Options Donna (1985), Vis-à-Vis Byblos (1986), and Options Uomo (1988). Their lighthearted, colorful, and “exotic” designs were a mix and match of styles, inspired by travels in North Africa, the Pacific, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, and appealed to a youthful clientele. For modern-day fashion “explorers” Cleaver and Varty, the world was a sourcebook from which numerous styles and design elements could be selected and discarded with irreverent abandon. Richard Martin recalls: “They brought Matisse colors to clothing, captured aubergines and gingers with a grocer’s discrimination and knew the earth colors of every part of the globe with a geologist’s imagination.”

Cleaver and Varty were dismissed in 1996 after fifteen years at the helm of Byblos. They were held responsible for the brand’s declining sales, and for a lack of design innovation in directing the company toward more sophisticated, elegant fashions. Richard Tyler was appointed design director and showcased his first collection in Milan for fall/winter 1997, with an emphasis on simple, minimal, and monochromatic designs that were the antithesis of his predecessors’ folkloric embellishments and motifs. In 1998 Richard Bartlett replaced Tyler and designed his first collection for Byblos spring/summer 1999, signaling a return to the brand’s past with characteristic young, carefree, optimistic, and colorful designs, while adhering to current fashion trends in terms of silhouette and form. Sandy Dalal and Martine Sibon were appointed creative directors for menswear and women’s wear in 2000 and were recognized for their use of strong, graphic prints which combined rock ’n’ roll and romance.

Since 2006, Central Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design graduate and self-proclaimed “aesthete of the future” Manuel Facchini has taken charge of Byblos, introducing clean silhouettes, sophisticated prints, and careful attention paid to details and accessories. His designs are inspired by art, architecture, sculpture, and music, in which the recurring theme of “nostalgia” celebrates the brand’s checkered history, while opening up new perspectives for the future.

Byblos, Fall/Winter 1987 Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Conti Samantha, and Miles Socha. ““Bartlett Already Sketching for Byblos”.” Women’s Wear Daily , 9 April 1998 .

Find in Library Forden Gay. ““Cleaver and Varty Seeking Compensation from Byblos”.” Women’s Wear Daily , 31 July 1997 .

Find in Library Gibbons William. ““Byblos Hits it Big with Vibrant Colors”.” Daily News Record , 19 July 1989 .

Find in Library Frey Nadine. ““Varty and Cleaver: Revitalizing Byblos”.” Women’s Wear Daily , 5 June 1987 .

Find in Library Lobrano Alexander. ““Both Sides of Byblos”.” Daily News Record , 19 June 1989 .

Find in Library Martin Richard. “Byblos.” In Contemporary Fashion , edited by T. Benbow-Pfalzgraf and R. Martin , 2nd edn. Detroit : St. James Press, 2002 [1995].

Find in Library Ozzard Janet. ““Bartlett, Byblos Part Company”.” Women’s Wear Daily , 21 March 2000 .

Find in Library Turra Alessandra. ““Byblos Launches Byblos Milano Line”.” Women’s Wear Daily , 30 September 2012 .