LOS ANGELES — After weeks of waiting, Los Angeles-based designer David Cardona officially signed on as the head designer for all women’s lines at Cerruti, including the 1881 diffusion line, WWD learned late Wednesday. While a formal announcement is expected next week, the contract stipulates the position is effective March 1, 2003, confirming buzz that Cardona had already begun work on the fall collections.

What this means regarding designer Istvan Francer, who only presented two seasons thus far at Cerruti, could not be determined at press time.

Cerruti representatives could not be reached for comment.

Cardona will continue to design his namesake collection, splitting his month between Cerruti studios in Milan and his own offices in the city of West Los Angeles. "We’re not shutting down Cardona to do Cerruti," said John Bowman, who in 1997 partnered with Cardona after he left Richard Tyler. The company, Bowman Cardona LLC, is not involved in the Cerruti deal. But both men acknowledged recently that the Cerruti deal would be a boon to broadening Cardona’s name in the global marketplace, an advantage they are looking forward to as the small house seeks to expand into other categories and markets.

As for the designer, he’s in Milan until the end of this week, having flown there following his own presentation March 30 that opened Los Angeles fashion week with such clients as Janet Jackson seated front row. In signature form, the collection offered plenty of sexed-up leather looks and sharply tailored suitings, as well as introducing his new footwear collection hitting retail at fall and priced between $400 and $1,250.

The appointment marks the third replacement in a year at the house. Roberto Menichetti left in May 2002 after six months. Cardona has been seen at the Paris and Milan offices of Cerruti, or in the company of its executives for several months now, yet neither side would confirm a deal was in the works.

The deal happens just in time for Cardona to host the opening of the women’s boutique at the 2,500-square-foot Cerruti door on Rodeo Drive, set to open in the coming weeks.

This is the second Los Angeles designer to be tapped at a European house in as many months. In early March, Revillon, one of France’s oldest furriers, named Rick Owens its new creative director and said Owens would show his debut ready-to-wear collection during the July couture shows at Revillon’s new headquarters in the Marais.

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