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It's high time a bit of aristocracy landed in South Beach, and with spring breakers on the loose at this time of year, the arrival of Vicomte A. could not have had better timing. Located on Collins, Vicomte A. brings a refreshing slew of preppy classics — bright polos, badged blazers, patterned oxfords — albeit with that French cheekiness that's near impossible to emulate unless, of course, you're French and unless, in this case, you happen to be a French viscount named Arthur de Soltrait.
The story of Vicomte A. begins, not in France, but in Charlotte, North Carolina, where de Soltrait found himself in quite the bind. After the company he was interning for folded, de Soltrait was strapped for cash. In a strike of ingenuity, he grabbed a collection of ties he'd bought in Italy and sold them from door-to-door, making enough money to jet back home and begin his lifestyle brand. Jump forward eight years and de Soltrait can count 51 Vicomte A. stores across the globe, from Paris to Hong Kong, with Miami being his second venture in the U.S.
Before the official opening of the store, we sat down with de Soltrait to discuss Miami's most royal new addition and he couldn't be more excited to bring a bit of French flair to our city. His entire brand is influenced by the aristocratic atmosphere in which he was raised — horse-filled summers in Burgundy, highbrow polo matches in the spring, lavish Bollinger-flowing parties with the likes of Pippa Middleton on the guest list. In a city that guzzles down luxury faster than a Ferrari can hit 60mph, Vicomte A. seems like it's found it's match.
You're a big name in Europe's social scene. Has that influenced your collections at all?
No, not at all, no [laughs]. I started this business to be independent and after to be a manager. Now we are 70 people so it's great. We focus on the creation, the fashion — well, I don't like the word fashion because it's in or out — so that's the challenge now, to make it more about style [than fashion].
Speaking of starting the company, this entire idea sprouted from your stint as a door-to-door tie salesman in America. Tell us a little bit about that.
I was in Charlotte, North Carolina for an internship. I was 22-years-old and it was very difficult for me as a French guy to find an internship in the U.S. so I found this one. The owner was 83 years old. After [the company folded] I couldn't pay for my hotel. My parents told me to try and find a solution for myself. I had some ties with me so I stopped to sell them from door-to-door and made $8000 in ten days.
$8000?! How did you do that?
I don't know if you know Charlotte, but it's a nice area. You have there Bank of America and Wachovia so there are a lot of husbands and women working. Some of them were at their house so I sold them the ties there. They were happy to see a French guy and I was polite. It was before Christmas so they needed some nice presents. After, my friend [Jay Myers] said 'you have to create your own label because you are a young aristocrat. In the U.S. you can become a billionaire, but you will never be a French aristocrat. You should create your label and [name] it with your title.' In France you never use your title. You never talk about it because it's in your education not to. Here in the U.S. it's different. You have to show it. So we designed a V and an A and a crown. His wife [Dee Myers] designed it.
Where is Vicomte A. most popular?
The best results are in Florida. First, it's a big market because of these two boutiques. We are also in Mexico with seven corners and Asia is becoming bigger and bigger. We just opened in Beijing and Jakarta and Tokyo.
Out of all the locations in the U.S., why choose to open in Florida?
It's a long story, but my parents couldn't keep my brother at home... he was a very good writer so they got him a one way ticket to Wellington, Florida and he started to write there. He was keen on business so he opened our first U.S. store in Palm Beach. After that the brand was called Vicomte A. Paris, Palm Beach. And of course Miami is a better continuity from Palm Beach.
What about this new Miami store excites you?
In France, it's a difficult period for the country. When I come here people are happy. They work hard. They are successful. You have a lot of dynamism which is very exciting. It's a very young city with a lot of excitement.
Not many fashion labels can say they have a viscount as their founder. What inspirations have you taken from your aristocratic background?
The lifestyle of the brand is based on this: a young, modern aristocrat, traveling around the world, very open minded but always wanting to be elegant. That's the main inspiration behind the brand. There is no special designer or style. It's a lifestyle brand.
What is Vicomte A.'s one signature piece?
The famous one is the bicolor polo shirt. My grandparents bred horses in Burgundy and so I was going to the horse races when I was very young. The jerseys of the jockeys are very colorful, so that's where inspiration for their colors comes from.
Your entire brand began with a set of ties. Are they still a main focus of your brand?
Yes of course. It's a history element.
And do you design everything or do you have a team of designers?
I am the owner and the creative manager, but I have stylists now. I do all the color matching.
So your first fashion week event is next June. What do you have planned?
We have planned an event at the Archer Room in Paris. It's not a show, it's a presentation... All of our products have developed details, but always with a twist. We say, in French, it's a twist of impertinence, so it's a bit naughty. It's just a typical French title... We're equal to many big brands in the world so I'm very proud of it. We compete with them now.
Your latest campaign is entirely inspired by Africa. What sparked that?
Yes, the safari campaign. I love Africa. We're becoming more and more the young travelers and the idea was to send Vicomte A. to Africa. We like to mix elegant patterns with African details because it's very strong.
What is your favorite piece from this latest collection?
This one [points to a double-breasted seersucker suit]. The idea was to start to start with the seersucker, which you all know very well in the U.S. We wanted to reinvent it in a classic way. We wanted to have it double breasted which is a bit different. The origin of Vicomte is to take something classical, like seersucker, and twist it.
Finally, I have to ask. What does Pippa think of your brand? Does she wear pieces from it?
She is just a friend. She has a very small size; she's a size four. When we choose pieces together we do a little retouching. She wears our shooting jackets in England in winter.
· Vicomte A. [Official Site]