By  on June 7, 2005

MILAN — Massimo Macchi believes he wouldn't be chief executive officer of Gianfranco Ferre if it weren't for his personality.

"I'm a good soldier, I enjoy working with a team and I have a positive attitude," said Macchi in his first interview with WWD since his appointment in February.

He obviously underestimates his qualifications. With a university degree in nuclear physics, Macchi's career ranges from Procter & Gamble, Playtex and American Express to luxury goods companies Bulgari and Gucci, where he was vice president of the group's jewelry and watch division. At A. Testoni, his last post, he was the company's group director of marketing and sales.

But it's true his easygoing manner serves him well in his new role, where he has to daily deal with two strong individuals: the willful designer Gianfranco Ferre, and Tonino Perna, chairman of IT Holding, which controls the brand and has made growing the Ferre business his priority.

"Ferre personally introduced me to his company, meeting with me every morning for weeks on end. He has very strong opinions but is also willing to listen to others," said Macchi. "As for Perna, he is very stimulating and it's hard to keep up with his ideas. He's a source of inspiration."

In 2004, Ferre reported sales of 143 million euros, or $175.8 million at current exchange rates, up 22 percent compared with 2003, and Macchi expects a 10 percent yearly growth over the next five years. Italy is one of the company's main markets, accounting for 35 percent of sales. The rest of Europe, including Eastern Europe and Russia, accounts for 34 percent of sales, with Russia increasingly emerging as a strong market.

Macchi said the company is working on rebalancing its geographic markets, pushing business in the U.S., which today accounts for 9 percent of revenues, and Asia, which accounts for 15 percent of sales. Macchi views the accessories division as a means to further penetrate the American market.

The signature line is available at eight brand stores, 45 franchised stores and 700 points of sale around the world, down from 1,000 a few years ago — a consequence of a more selective distribution. GF Ferre is available at 10 franchised boutiques and 600 multibrand stores.

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