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Ungaro Taps Cortazar

Emanuel Ungaro has found its new chief designer ??? Esteban Cortazar, WWD has learned.

PARIS — Emanuel Ungaro has found its new chief designer — Esteban Cortazar, WWD has learned.

An announcement is expected as early as today. Ungaro chief executive officer Mounir Moufarrige has a knack for making surprising designer choices. As president of Chloé, he picked the then 25-year-old Stella McCartney to succeed Karl Lagerfeld in 1997. Bogota, Colombia-born Cortazar, 23, presented his first signature collection in New York at the age of 18 and was immediately embraced by such retailers as the late Kal Ruttenstein at Bloomingdale’s.

Neither Ungaro officials nor Cortazar could be reached for comment Thursday.

Cortazar will succeed Peter Dundas, whose three seasons at Ungaro were rocky at best. The house has experienced a bit of a revolving door in its design department, Dundas himself having succeeded Vincent Darre. Ungaro hopes Cortazar will be able to generate excitement at a house founded in 1965 and known for its polkadots, sexy draping and vivacious prints.

Ungaro has been wracked by instability since its founding couturier retired in 2004. His handpicked successor, Giambattista Valli, had some success, but he clashed with management. Ferragamo purchased Ungaro in 1996. They sold the business in 2005 to high-tech entrepreneur Asim Abdullah.

Moufarrige recently named a new designer, Frank Boclet, to rev up Ungaro’s men’s business.