MILAN — Italian knitwear specialist Les Copains has tapped Albino D’Amato as a creative consultant and plans to develop its men’s wear business.

The 33-year-old D’Amato said Friday that he has been advising Les Copains’ in-house design team since the departure of former creative director Antonio Berardi, whose contract expired in February.

“We will debut with the next spring-summer collection,” D’Amato said.

His role of creative consultant is expected to mature into that of creative director in time, sources close to Les Copains told WWD.

Enrico Acciai, managing director of BVM, which owns Les Copains, said the decision not to renew Berardi’s contract and to seek new creative input was part of a three-year strategic plan to strengthen the brand worldwide.

“Mr. Berardi did an extraordinary job,” Acciai said. “But it was absolutely necessary to give an important signal, with the introduction of a new designer who had connotations of that modernity and creativity that we’d like to give the company in the future.”

Acciai said the strategic plan involves building Les Copains men’s wear business, as well as overhauling the brand’s distribution and store network.

“Following detailed market research, we realized that male consumers had quite a clear, demarcated perception of the brand,” Acciai said. “This represents a huge opportunity for Les Copains.”

Acciai said the first step in the evolution of Les Copains’ men’s wear would be to concentrate on quality, volumes, shapes and materials. He gave no further details.

D’Amato, a former assistant to Giambattista Valli at Emanuel Ungaro and a past winner of the Italian Vogue and Alta Roma-sponsored Who Is On Next contest, launched an eponymous collection in 2004 and also designs for vintage Italian brand VictorVictoria. He has also worked with Emilio Pucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Versace.

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