By  on April 18, 2008

MILAN — Giorgio Armani SpA on Thursday named Bruno Laguardia as chief executive officer of its U.S. subsidiary, replacing Bridget Ryan Berman, who left in September.

Laguardia, 61, most recently spearheaded the creation and organization of Trimil SpA, a joint venture set up by Armani and Ermenegildo Zegna SpA in 2000, to oversee manufacturing and distribution of the Armani Collezioni men’s wear line. He began his career at Bassetti Group, an international manufacturer and distributor of home textile products, and also has worked in executive roles at Zegna.

Laguardia “is an accomplished professional with a broad range of experience in the areas of manufacturing, wholesale and retail operations,” said Giorgio Armani, president and ceo of his namesake fashion company. “He is a leader with great collaborative skills and a proven track record in developing and motivating organizations and building strong client relationships. Through his previous connection with the Armani Group, we can be sure that he will quickly make an impact on the growth and prosperity of our North American business.”

The new U.S. ceo will be charged with driving revenue growth in the nation, which slowed to 7 percent in 2007 from 10 percent in 2006. Last year, the U.S. accounted for about 24 percent of Giorgio Armani’s wholesale revenues.

“America is Giorgio Armani’s most important market,” Laguardia told WWD. “In fact, it’s the biggest. I am extremely pleased that Mr. Armani asked me to come here.”

Laguardia, who was speaking from New York, said he was “a little worried” about the slowdown in consumer spending in the U.S., but that international travelers would compensate for the fall in local traffic.

“I haven’t been here in New York long, but you can hear on the street that there are many Europeans and Italians,” he said, adding that sales at directly operated Armani stores were “slightly up” for the quarter compared with last year.

Laguardia said he was more concerned about the department stores and how they were balancing their financial and commercial needs.

“Very often, they make sales decisions, which we are able to manage in a different way in our own boutiques,” Laguardia said.Laguardia said his challenge in the next few years would be to implement and execute Armani’s “new programs,” citing Armani Jeans, Emporio Armani and accessories, “which are not yet fully known to the American market.”

He added that his knowledge of Armani’s nonretail operations, particularly in Italy, would facilitate relations at Giorgio Armani Corp.

“We have two worlds at Giorgio Armani, the maison and [the commercial arm]. We have had problems getting them to communicate in the past, for which reason my challenge will be to try to get them to do so better,” Laguardia said.

He also will oversee the expansion of Armani’s retail network in North America, most notably the new multibrand flagship on Fifth Avenue, which is slated to open in February. The Giorgio Armani Corp. operates 32 directly owned stores and two Armani cafes in the U.S.

“There are few places in the world that bring together prestige and traffic, and Fifth Avenue is the maximum from this point of view,” Laguardia said. “It gives us the opportunity to present the group’s entire offer under one roof and to show what we are able to do from A to Z.”

In 2007, Armani registered a 17 percent increase in operating profits to 289 million euros, or $396.1 million at average exchange, driven by sales increases across all brands, product categories and geographic areas.

Consolidated revenues for the 12 months through Dec. 31 rose 8 percent to 1.6 billion euros, or $2.19 billion.

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