By  on October 12, 2007

Michele Furlanetto has been named president of Furla USA and will focus on the retail sector for 2008.

Furlanetto, 37, a third-generation member of the Italian handbag and accessories firm, said he plans to open three or four more stores, but declined to name locations. However, he expressed confidence that the company will accomplish "a lot of things." He will keep his responsibilities as general manager of Furla UK.

Furla has 200 points of distribution, including wholesale accounts, company-owned boutiques and franchised stores. The firm has 15 stores in North America, including five outlet stores. There are also seven boutiques in the Caribbean.

Furlanetto will split his time between London and New York. He replaces Carol DiMaio-Lucas, who stepped down in August.

In July, the 80-year-old, Bologna, Italy-based firm appointed Paolo Fontanelli, who was chief financial officer of Giorgio Armani SpA, as chief executive officer. The company also recently revealed plans to double its sales and open or update 56 directly owned boutiques and 60 franchised stores by 2011. Sales in 2007 are expected to grow 16 percent compared with last year, reaching 150 million euros, or $213 million at current exchange.

Furlanetto said he will work to unify the look of the company's international stores, especially with its subsidiaries in Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, which he also oversees.

The company is also focusing on encouraging young designers. After taking part as a sponsor in Who Is on Next? — a fashion event top editors and retailers flock to, seeking the next possible talent — it has initiated Furla Talent Hub. Talent Hub is a project that will help designers gain exposure by designing lines for Furla. Who Is on Next winner Courtney Crawford and runners-up Nicole Brundage and Max Kibardin have designed collections for Furla that will be displayed prominently in its store windows starting in December. Crawford's styles bow next fall. The company has tapped handbag designers Alice and Lisa Ferrari of Maricò, who were not involved in Who Is on Next, to design a collection.

"This will be a novelty to our stores and the world of fashion in general," Furlanetto said. "We always try to invest in young people. The average age of our employees is 32 years old."

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