By and  on March 9, 2005

PARIS — “It’s the best thing that could happen at Gucci,” François-Henri Pinault declared Tuesday morning, confirming an exclusive WWD report that Frida Giannini will take over as the brand’s new ready-to-wear designer.

Giannini succeeds Alessandra Facchinetti, who was ousted from the company after a rocky one-year stint heading the rtw department in Gucci’s post-Tom Ford era. As reported, Giannini will continue as the brand’s designer of accessories, sales of which have soared since she took over last year.

Pinault, who officially becomes chief executive officer of Gucci Group parent PPR on March 21, likened Giannini to Ford in that her abilities stretch from design and merchandising to marketing and image.

“She is definitely capable of all that,” Pinault said in an interview. “After a year of this organization with three designers, it became obvious that Frida has a vision for the brand overall for women, and not only for accessories.”

Giannini’s promotion was prompted partly by an attempt by rival LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton to lure her back to Fendi, where she had cut her teeth as a designer of handbags and clothing. But asked about the attempted poaching by LVMH, Pinault brushed it off, saying: “The fact that she’s headhunted, that’s a good sign.”

Giannini, 32, could not be reached for comment. However, in a statement, she said she looks forward to “moving Gucci forward in ready-to-wear and maintaining the brand at the forefront of fashion.”

Retailers, some still finishing up their fall-winter buys here, applauded the change.

“I’m not surprised only because their accessories designer has been doing such a wonderful job,” said Jim Gold, Bergdorf Goodman’s chairman and chief executive. “The business has been so strong, it makes sense that they would expand her area of responsibility.”

Gold described Bergdorf’s Gucci apparel business as “stable” but with strong growth potential.

Ron Frasch, chief merchandising officer of Saks Fifth Avenue, agreed, saying Gucci’s accessories, handbag and shoe businesses have blossomed and developed “incredibly” under Giannini’s direction.

“The quality of the design and the commerciality of the products has been stupendous,” he said. “I think that’s what the ready-to-wear needs, and if she can do this, I think it would be a great thing for the house.”

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