NEW YORK — “I think we’re going to disrupt a little,” said Diane von Furstenberg about naming her new chief executive officer.

After a two-year search, von Furstenberg, founder and cochairman, has appointed Paolo Riva, 41, ceo of Diane von Furstenberg Studio, a new post. Riva was vice president, apparel and visual merchandising for Tory Burch LLC, where he worked for three years. The Italian-born executive brings extensive experience in finance as well as global merchandising, marketing and product development to DVF, having also worked for Valentino and Salvatore Ferragamo. He begins May 18.

“This is a most important decision for me. This is an heir, somebody to take it on for the next decades,” von Furstenberg told WWD. She said she met with a lot of qualified people in Europe and the U.S., and “Barry [Diller, her husband] said to me, ‘You should stop looking for those who are already ceo’s, and you should look for the next superstar.’ That was a magic word.”

During the interview process, DVF said she usually does the selling, but in this case, Riva took over. “He completely seduced me in the way he sees me, the way he sees the brand, the way he sees the potential, and the way he sees the world in disruption.” After introducing him to her team, including her son Alex, everybody was onboard, she said.

“I want somebody who really loves product. We don’t sell numbers. We sell dresses, we sell shoes, we sell accessories, bags. Numbers are extremely important, but I have a very special relationship with the consumer over the decades, and I’ve dressed generations of women, I’m talking to the Millennials. It’s a love brand, it’s very unique and people have to understand that.

“I don’t want somebody who compares me to another brand. I want somebody who sees it as it is. Because we’re a private company, we have a lot of flexibility,” she said. “I don’t think we want to go with anybody’s formula.”

Asked whether she wants to eventually take the company public, DVF was coy. “I want the spirit of the brand to last,” she said.

The designer said that everybody will report to Riva. “He’s the ultimate boss,” she said. Joel Horowitz, cochairman, will stay with the firm. “His role was to set up an infrastructure and to find the ceo,” she said.

Riva’s immediate priorities will be to work on the product mix and the retail experience, according to von Furstenberg.

Commenting on his new role, Riva said, “What is special about Diane is that she connects emotionally with women of all generations, all around the world. My vision is to unlock the brand potential by offering the relevant mix of products with a unique experience for the consumer. Only a well-orchestrated team can achieve that, and I look forward to leading that team.”

He said he sees the house of DVF “as an incredible jewel. It’s one of the best-kept secrets. In order to unlock the potential of the brand, we need to give the woman a reason to enter the DVF world and to give them a reason to buy. We need to offer a valuable and compelling merchandised collection so the customer can embrace every aspect of it, across ready-to-wear, accessories and shoes,” he said. The other pillar is to create a customer experience through a communication and marketing strategy and through product. “You need to bring the customer to the center of everything you do,” he said.

Riva said his first priority is to get to know the team “and to start to build a strategy for the brand and what it will look like in years to come.”
In recent years, DVF has been strengthening its retail, wholesale and licensing operation with the possibility of an eventual initial public offering.

DVF has a global distribution network of more than 55 countries and 1,500 points of sale, including 116 DVF-owned and partnered stores throughout North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

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