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NEW YORK — Change is in the air at Christian Dior.
The fashion house is expected to announce today that Marla Sabo, president and chief operating officer of its U.S. subsidiary, is leaving, effective Thursday.
Sidney Toledano, president and chief executive officer of the Paris-based Christian Dior Couture, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but said in a statement: “We recognize and appreciate Marla’s contribution to the brand’s success and current position in the North American market.”
As for Sabo’s next move, she is expected to announce her plans shortly, according to the Dior statement.
Patricia “Pat” Malone, who left her post as Gucci America’s president last January, is said to be a front-runner for the Dior job and an announcement could come before the end of the week. Dior declined comment. Malone is a Gucci veteran, having worked for the brand for 17 years and having overseen its explosive growth in the U.S. under Tom Ford.
Sabo, who did not return a phone call, joined Christian Dior Inc., a division of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, in 2001 from Hermès, where she was senior vice president in charge of development of the Paris-based house’s commercial network in the U.S. Before that, she was vice president and divisional merchandise manager of European and American designer collections at Saks Fifth Avenue. At Dior, she replaced Thierry Letrilliart. “Being an American, Marla Sabo brings with her extensive knowledge of that market,” Toledano said at the time of her appointment.
Dior does not break down sales by geographic region, but sources indicated the company’s U.S. business has been more challenging in recent years, prompting top LVMH brass to put pressure on the North American division to increase its performance. However, at sister company LVMH, the U.S. generated 22 percent of its 2005 sales in its fashion and leather goods division, which includes brands such as Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Donna Karan and Givenchy.
Last year, sales at Dior rose 11.4 percent to 663 million euros, or $825.7 million. At the time, Toledano said Asia, including Japan, posted the biggest increase, with the U.S. logging a double-digit gain. He also cited “huge potential” in markets like the U.S. Dior ended 2005 with a network of 194 locations, with Chevy Chase, Md., and Puerto Rico among openings in the last quarter of that year.
During Sabo’s tenure, Dior embarked on an aggressive retail expansion, opening stores in locations such as the Americana in Manhasset, N.Y.; Las Vegas, and Waikiki, and reopening an expanded Aspen, Colo., boutique, and an extensively redesigned 57th Street flagship here. Dior currently has 52 stores in the U.S., of which 22 are freestanding.
Sabo’s departure leaves LVMH looking to fill two top jobs. Last month, the company said that Jean-Marc Gallot, Louis Vuitton North America’s president, was heading to Europe to become Vuitton’s European president.