By  on April 20, 2006

PARIS — Patricia Malone's challenge as the new president and chief operating officer of Christian Dior Americas is to maintain the division's momentum.

Dior on Wednesday confirmed Malone's appointment, which was first reported in WWD.

"The first quarter has been very good in the U.S.," said Sid­ney Toledano, Dior's president and chief executive officer, in an interview Wednesday, citing "strong double-digit" growth and particular strength in the leather goods category, led by John Galliano's slouchy new Gaucho bag.

Toledano characterized future potential in the U.S. as "very big," citing growing and "excellent" spending on luxury goods.

Ready-to-wear and accessories are considered key development priorities, and Toledano said Galliano would assume a higher profile in the American market, beginning May 16 when he will present Dior's cruise collection in New York.

Dior already boasts 52 stores in the U.S., of which 22 are freestanding. No major openings are planned for 2006, save for Friday, when a new Dior Homme store is slated to bow at 315 North Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, one door away from the women's boutique.

The former president of Gucci America, who in the course of her eight-year tenure doubled that brand's sales and its network of freestanding stores, Malone starts at Dior on April 26. She succeeds Marla Sabo, who stepped down and has yet to reveal her plans.

Dior is set to report first-quarter sales today.

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