By  on October 4, 2005

PARIS — Emilio Pucci said Monday that Matthew Williamson would become its new artistic director, showing his first collection for the Florentine house next February.WWD first reported Sept. 28 that Pucci was courting Williamson, a Londoner known for colorful, bohemian frocks and a celebrity following. He succeeds Christian Lacroix, who showed his swan song for the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned house last week in Milan."We liked the soft, glamorous kind of attitude that Matthew developed for his own line, and his sense of color and femininity," said Pucci chief executive Catherine Vautrin.She declined to give details of the contract, but characterized it as a long-term relationship, given Williamson's "energy and motivation" during the negotiations.But Vautrin said the designer change would not alter the direction of the historic brand, famous for its jet-set image and brilliant heraldic prints on silk jersey. "Christian [Lacroix] brought sophistication, and his imagination with prints and colors," she said. "Matthew will bring his own interpretation."Williamson was traveling Monday and could not be reached for comment. However, he will continue to produce his signature collection, which he shows in New York.Williamson has one freestanding store, in London; several shop-in-shops in Harvey Nichols stores and about 160 wholesale clients. His celebrity pals include Sienna Miller, Keira Knightley, Jade Jagger and Helena Christensen."I think Matthew was a very interesting idea and choice," said Laudomia Pucci, the daughter of founder Emilio Pucci and image director of the house. "We loved his colors, prints, his freshness and also his jet-set-y lifestyle. I think that really complements Pucci. Also, he's English but he shows in the U.S. and has an American approach to business. We're hoping he'll be a part of our ongoing growth strategy and we're really happy and excited to have him."That said, she added, "I have to give a big thank you to Christian. He left Pucci on a high note."Indeed, sales at Pucci have quadrupled over the past four years, totaling 45 million euros, or about $55 million, last year. Before Lacroix joined Pucci in 2002, the creative director was American Julio Espada. The Pucci family has also collaborated with Antonio Berardi and Stephan Janson.Lacroix said he plans to focus on developing his signature brand, which LVMH sold to Florida-based Falic Group earlier this year.

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