By  on July 2, 2009

MILAN — Six weeks into his new post as managing director of Ittierre SpA, Massimo Suppancig has clear-cut ideas about the future of the Italian manufacturing firm, and his top priorities are more licenses to round off its designer stable and a company-owned denim line.

In his first interview since his appointment in May, Suppancig highlighted Ittierre’s expertise. “I never expected to find such a production machine,” said Suppancig, pointing to the 250 seamstresses working at the plant, whose workforce totals 1,000. “And that’s coming from someone who worked at GFT, Escada and Hugo Boss.”

At Italy’s now-defunct giant production company GFT, Suppancig oversaw diffusion lines for Christian Dior and Emanuel Ungaro, Giorgio Armani’s Collezioni, State of Claude Montana and Valentino Miss V from 1989 to 1994. His knowledge of such businesses and his turnaround of high-end accessories firm Valextra landed him the job at Ittierre.

Suppancig was tapped by Ittierre’s administrators Andrea Ciccoli, Stanislao Chimenti and Roberto Spada. Ittierre’s parent company, IT Holding, filed for the Italian equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February after running out of cash. Suppancig said IT Holding no longer exists, as its assets, which include the Gianfranco Ferré and Malo lines, are managed by the three administrators.

Ittierre’s administrators are working on a development plan to present to Italy’s minister of economic development Claudio Scajola. The deadline is set for Aug. 12, but it may be pushed back another three months.

Ittierre operates under license the Just Cavalli, C’N’C Costume National and Galliano labels. The administrators have renewed the firm’s licensing agreements with the brands’ respective designers this year, but Suppancig said the VJC Versace license expired with the fall 2009 collection. The company also produces Gianfranco Ferré’s GF Ferré and Ferré Milano lines.

“Ittierre is a hidden beauty, a jewel, and I think its founder [former chairman and majority shareholder Tonino Perna, who was frozen out of the company] suffered from an inferiority complex,” said Suppancig. The executive contended Perna put the spotlight on the designer brands he bought during the Nineties acquisition spree — Romeo Gigli, Malo and Gianfranco Ferré — rather than touting Ittierre’s production prowess.

Suppancig also underscored the company’s accessories division, Plus IT, which counts 90 stores around the world.

“My job is to exploit Ittierre’s know-how to build its future in a consistent way, without overlapping any brand,” he said. He believes the company could have grown substantially if it had been more focused over the years, citing as an example the firm’s Exté brand and its several different directions and positionings.

“I’ve worked with the greatest, from [GFT’s] Marco Rivetti and [Escada’s] Wolfgang Ley to Pietro Marzotto and Luciano Benetton, and they taught me it’s fundamental to be consistent in order to build a successful company,” remarked Suppancig, who plans to relaunch the Exté brand as “an expression of the company and with the right marketing.”

The executive said he still believes in the vitality of secondary lines as a way to “bring the highest style” to a wider audience. However, given more educated consumers and the fast-fashion phenomenon, Suppancig said these collections should now be “smaller, more focused, with single, more quality items and with more fashion content at a lower price.”

Suppancig said he has optimized production in order to lower prices by 10 to 20 percent and he has streamlined the structure of the company. There have been no cuts to personnel, however.

He is also pushing to launch a company-owned denim brand. “We have 57 different denim washes but don’t have our own line that expresses our know-how in this category,” he said.

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