NEW YORK — Mario Grauso has stepped down as president of the Vera Wang Group, effective Feb. 15.
He will continue working with the group as a consultant, focusing primarily on the brand’s advertising campaigns and retail expansion. His decision was prompted by his interest in pursuing new projects independently.
“I have enjoyed helping Vera grow her company over the past three years and feel that it is time for me to pursue several other projects which have interested me for some time,” said Grauso. “I wish [Vera] every success and look forward to helping her as a consultant and friend.”
Wang, who will continue to oversee all creative and design aspects of her company, noted, “It has been an exciting time for our brand as we have grown and established new, global projects over the years and have grown our business tremendously. Mario has been an essential player in our recent development, and I am happy that he agreed to stay on board as a consultant and continue working with us. As his friend, I am also very excited for him as he looks towards new ventures.”
Grauso took over the executive reins of the firm in October 2009, freeing up Wang to focus more on the creative side. The designer had been seeking to fill that role for about five years. Grauso had returned to the company after a 10-year hiatus. During that period, he was president of Carolina Herrera Ltd. and Puig Fashion Group, from 2000 to 2009. He began as president of Carolina Herrera, and in 2004 he took on the role of overseeing the Nina Ricci and Paco Rabanne fashion houses. Grauso started his career as an intern at Ralph Lauren and later became executive vice president of Vera Wang. He has also been president of Celine Inc., overseeing the U.S. operations of the Paris-based fashion brand.
When he rejoined Wang in 2009, the designer told WWD: “What Mario brings to the table is his work ethic — I think most people know I have a fairly extreme work ethic myself — that’s great.”
“Now there are two crazy control freaks making sure that everything is perfect,” Grauso said at the time.
At Wang, Grauso was charged with reexamining the designer’s contemporary Lavender business (it recently signed a deal with The Levy Group to do a better-price dress line); developing the burgeoning jewelry and shoe sectors; expanding distribution internationally; opening more freestanding stores (such as the ready-to-wear store on Melrose in Los Angeles and a bridal store in San Francisco) and dressing more celebrities for the red carpet.
In business since 1990, Wang has continued to widen the scope of her brand through licensing arrangements. Her current licensees range from tabletop and stationery to footwear; eyewear; bedding; fragrances; Simply Vera Vera Wang, an exclusive collection for Kohl’s; White by Vera Wang, an exclusive collection for David’s Bridal, and Vera Wang Love jewelry, exclusively for Zales.
Under Grauso’s leadership, Wang aggressively penetrated the Asian market. Last year, it opened stores in Hong Kong and Shanghai and plans a Beijing boutique in 2014. This past summer it also opened its first freestanding bridal boutique in Japan in the Ginza neighborhood, which was followed by bridal boutiques in London, Moscow, Sydney and Seoul.