If it works for the Italians, maybe it will work for us."
That seems to be a train of thought among international luxury goods groups, which are increasingly recruiting Italian managers to head their companies, from Pino Brusone at Donna Karan to Antonio Belloni at LVMH and Gianluca Brozzetti at Asprey & Garrard. "Managers the Italian way" seems to be the latest fashion trend.
"Italians combine management skills with flexibility and creativity," said Laura Vannucchi, director of the head-hunting division of Pambianco Strategie d'Imprese, a luxury goods consulting firm in Milan.
"When the Italian manager is well organized, he is one of the most complete. His assets are flexibility, intuition and a wide perspective," said Massimo Suppancig, who has held executive positions at Hugo Boss and Escada. "Because of the history of his country, with its bureaucracy and its complexities, Italians often need to improvise, and this becomes an added asset in management."
Concetta Lanciaux, adviser to the chairman, group executive vice president of synergies and group delegate for Italy at LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, agreed with Suppancig. "The private industry is not supported by the state, policies are intricate and Italian managers learn ways to get the job done."
Lanciaux said Italian managers had "a special ability to deal with fashion designers. They also know how to manage a great variety of people as individual talents, not in a uniform way," she said.
"Italian managers are extremely flexible, an essential quality when working for a fashion company," agreed Stefania Saviolo, co-director of the master on fashion management at Milan's Bocconi University. "They have further developed this in-born trait and a special sensitivity, which cannot be taught, by working in family-run companies close to the owners and the designers."
Saviolo said that, in addition to specific management capacities, Italian managers have an added plus: "They are inventive and creative, and find new ways to position products, often dealing directly with strategies and marketing," said Saviolo.
As Italian fashion companies garnered international success and recognition over the past few years, the model of Italian management has caught the industry's attention. "There is more trust in the Italian management talent because of the success of Italian companies," said Lanciaux. Armando Branchini, vice president of InterCorporate, a luxury goods analyst here, said the latest generation of Italian managers are also in demand because they've mastered the peculiarities of the high-end range of the market. "They've learned to manage all the different areas, ranging from supply chain to product positioning, from finance to marketing, with the added plus of knowing how to position these brands strategically in the luxury goods market," said Branchini.
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"