By and  on January 28, 2009

PARIS — In a move to leapfrog its designer reputation and business, French department store operator Printemps has named prominent independent retailer Maria Luisa Poumaillou as fashion editor, a new post, effective immediately.

Printemps president Paolo de Cesare said Tuesday that Poumaillou will chiefly be working as a consultant to the store’s buying teams across all women’s and men’s categories, with the aim of fine-tuning the 17-unit chain’s offer with a seasoned “fashion eye.”

“[Poumaillou] comes armed with 20 years of experience as one of the greatest buyers and developers of new designers,” he told a press conference. “She’ll be consulting for the whole store with a view to creating the luxury fashion pole that Paris needs.” Printemps also plans to give Poumaillou a Maria Luisa-bannered showcase, under franchise, on the second floor of its Boulevard Haussmann flagship store that will be reminiscent of, and approximately the same size as, her signature boutique here on the Rue Mont-Thabor. The store sells brands such as Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Manolo Blahnik.

Due to open this summer, the shop-in-shop’s brand selection is still to be finalized, though the focus will be on independent designers not already present in Printemps, Poumaillou said.

“It’s the right moment….The public is looking for authentic brands with a certain freedom. This will open an infinite number of people up to independent designers,” said Poumaillou, who opened a Maria Luisa franchise in London’s Dover Street Market a week ago.

In an interview, department store mogul Maurizio Borletti, chairman of Printemps Holding, said efforts are already under way to make the banner, especially in Paris, a reference store for fashion, “and with Maria Luisa, we go a step further.”

Borletti, also chairman of Italy’s La Rinascente, led the pool of investors that purchased France’s Printemps chain from French luxury and retail group PPR.

Printemps will not make any investment in the Maria Luisa business, he noted.

The Haussmann unit is undergoing a massive renovation — billed by De Cesare as the most ambitious in Europe — with the three main fashion and accessories floors due to be finished by September 2010. De Cesare estimated the total cost of the effort at just over 60 million euros, or approximately $78 million.

Separately, Poumaillou confirmed she would close her men’s wear store on the Rue Mont-Thabor at the end of the month.

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