By  on October 9, 2007

MILAN — Massimo Suppancig has quit Valextra, the high-end accessories firm that he helped turn around.

Following a board meeting Thursday, Emanuele Carminati Molina was confirmed as chairman and appointed chief executive officer, a post held by Suppancig since 2003.

Suppancig became involved with Valextra in 2000, when he met Carminati Molina, who had acquired a majority stake in the brand from Samsonite through his holding company Carfin 92. Before Valextra, Suppancig held top posts at Escada and Hugo Boss.

In a phone interview, Carminati Molina said the reasons behind the changing of the guard developed gradually. The entrepreneur, who will now have a hands-on role, said he wants to strengthen the brand's presence in underexploited markets, to make the product more feminine and develop more marketing.

"We would never think of making Valextra more accessible or commercial because we want to maintain its DNA and all the work that has been done up until now," he said. "We have invested significantly and will continue to invest in this brand, which still isn't self-sufficient [financially speaking]."

Over the past four years, Suppancig has worked hard to bring Valextra back to its glory days, when the bags and luggage were a favorite of celebrities such as Jacqueline Kennedy, Grace Kelly, Maria Callas and Gianni Agnelli. Valextra was founded by Giovanni Fontana in 1937.

Suppancig said Carminati Molina's decision was unilateral and sudden. "All I can say is that I remain enthusiastic for what my team and I built and achieved over the past four years," he said. "I wanted a lifestyle product that was evergreen and luxurious and making that happen isn't something that you learn overnight."

During the past seven years, Suppancig stimulated the artisans in Valextra's factory near Bergamo by bringing back to life iconic styles where craftsmanship bypassed showmanship. For example, the relaunches of the Punch and the Carita rigid-frame bags, both handmade using the finest leathers, were immediate successes.

In 2004, Suppancig crowned another dream: opening a five-story palazzo on Via Manzoni here that houses a store, an airy showroom and the design studio. The store alone, complete with counters of monolithic, hand-etched blocks of desert stone and pear wood fixtures, cost $3.6 million to build.Valextra also has stores in Rome, Hong Kong and Tokyo and wholesales its bags to department stores including Harrods, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York.

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