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Exclusive: Oliver Bonas expands team with in-house design duo

Contemporary fashion and lifestyle retailer Oliver Bonas is looking to ramp up its own-label womenswear range with the appointment of its first in-house design team.

The 32-store chain, which sells womenswear brands such as Vila, Vero Moda and Selected Femme as well as its own label, Poem, has appointed Annalisa Gioia to the new position of senior designer.

Gioia joins from Arcadia, where she was senior designer working across jersey, wovens and embellished product. Gioia has also held designer roles at Monsoon Accessorize, where she worked for almost five years including the Fusion sub-brand.

At the same time, Sarah Head has  been appointed to the role of print designer. She joins from Monsoon Accessorize, where she was a textile designer for two years.

Both Gioia and Head started at the retailer this week and this follows the departure of creative womenswear buyer Linda Molnes, who left the business earlier this year.

It is thought the creation of the new team represents a move by the retailer to produce more own-label womenswear, which will be designed in-house and will incorporate exclusive prints.

It is not known whether future designs will be incorporated by the existing Poem brand, or how many items will be in future collections.

Poem was launched by Oliver Bonas in May 2011 in an attempt to improve margins and create a clearer fashion identity. At the time, managing director Oliver Tress said he wanted to increase the fashion arm of the business from about a third of turnover to 40%.

The appointments follow a period of expansion for the chain, which has opened new stores in Bristol’s Cabot Circus, Kingston-upon-Thames, Cambridge and London’s Waterloo station in the past 12 months.

The retailer recently posted a turnover of £11.8m for the 12 months to November 30, 2011 and a pre-tax profit of £7,125, down on the previous full-year pre-tax profit of £50,353, as a result of commodity price inflation, general wage pressures and a fall in gross margins.


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