By  on May 16, 2008

MILAN — It's the start of something new at Pollini.

In a bid to grow and move the brand forward, Aeffe SpA revealed a new design duo: Jonathan Saunders as ready-to-wear director and Nicholas Kirkwood to spearhead the accessories division.

They replace Rifat Ozbek, who ended his four-year run at Pollini with the fall collection at the end of his contract.

The Turkish designer joined Pollini in 2003, after a two-year hiatus from fashion when he shuttered his namesake line. His exit confirms a WWD report on March 5.

The first collection by the new duo will launch for spring in September.

"During the initial public offering phase, we had already committed to invest in Pollini, also spurred by the fact that Ozbek's contract was coming to an end and that he was interested in pursuing other interests," Massimo Ferretti, Aeffe chairman, told WWD.

"We thank him very much for his work and we're parting amicably."

Aeffe, founded in 1980 by siblings Massimo and Alberta Ferretti, listed on the Milan Stock Exchange's STAR segment in July. It operates Alberta Ferretti, Philosophy by Alberta Ferretti and the Moschino brands and produces collections for Jean Paul Gaultier.

The new creative setup marks the beginning of a long-term strategy for Pollini, aimed at increasing market share and brand awareness. Pollini accounted for 18 percent of Aeffe's revenues in 2007 for a total of 52.3 million euros, or $81 million at current exchange rates. Ferretti declined to provide sales projections for the current year.

The appointment of the two young designers also ends recent speculation that Aeffe, which acquired a 72 percent stake in the leather goods brand in 2001, wanted to sell Pollini.

Conversely, Ferretti said he wants to spotlight the brand's Italian and artisanal qualities. More detail-driven and contemporary clothes and accessories will replace Ozbek's ethnic and tribal flourishes. "Both [Saunders and Kirkwood] take their cues from modern art, design and architecture, so the change of direction will be quite obvious," said Ferretti.

Saunders has already been put in charge of the fall ad campaign, shot in black-and-white by Craig McDean in New York's Milk Studios. There are three graphic and clean shots that zero in on the apparel, eyewear and accessories.Saunders and Kirkwood will continue to produce their own lines.

Ferretti also said he is in the process of singling out an interior design firm to develop a new store concept for the brand. On tap for this year is the opening of seven Pollini units, either freestanding stores or shop-in-shops, in Europe and the Middle East. In the U.S., Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdale's carry Pollini.

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