By  on June 24, 2008

FLORENCE — Ballantyne has appointed its first creative director: Dawidh di Firmo, who previously was senior designer at Prada for women's wear.

The designer will help add "a more creative, modern and innovative spirit" to Ballantyne's ready-to-wear line, according to Alfredo Canessa, the company's chairman. Born in Italy's Treviglio region in 1974, di Firmo is a graduate of Milan's prestigious Brera Academy of Fine Arts and had been at Prada since 2005. Prior to that he was with Bottega Veneta and Marni.

Di Firmo's first task will be the launch in September of the Ballantyne Heritage Edition, a collection of 26 cardigans from its archives but in contemporary colors and fits. The collection will be identified by a hand-sewn Forties Ballantyne label and packaging embellished with the brand's griffin symbol. The Heritage Edition bowed last week in Florence during the city's international men's wear exhibition Pitti Uomo, as Ballantyne opened its first store there.

Covering 8,000 square feet, the boutique is located on Via Tornabuoni, near the Ponte Vecchio and next to the Gucci, Prada and Bulgari stores. The store is modeled after the company's first unit, which opened in Milan last summer, with teak wood in a honey shade, cashmere curtains, soft pinstriped carpets, Bergère armchairs, mirrors decorated with a diamond serigraphy, reminiscent of Ballantyne's argyle cashmere sweaters, and a gray and plum color palette. A wall of 200 cashmere knits in 60 hues displayed on dark brown ebony shelves takes center stage.

Over the past year, the company has opened six stores, in London, Tokyo and Cortina and Portofino in Italy, in addition to Milan and Florence.

Overall, Ballantyne has 480 points of sale, excluding Japan, where the company counts 20 shops-in-shops. The company, which was founded in Innerleithen, Scotland, and is controlled by Italian equity fund Charme, is also looking at opening a store on New York's Madison Avenue, replacing a previous one that closed two years ago.

The appointment of di Firmo is also part of the company's strategy to approach new markets that are looking for a "younger and more modern Ballantyne," said Canessa. Case in point: Ballantyne will open two stores with Mercury Group in Moscow in the fall and early next year.

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