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LVMH Taps Sebastian Suhl for Givenchy CEO Post

Appointment of high-caliber executive signals ambitions for one of the industry's buzziest smaller brands.

PARIS — Signaling expansion ambitions for one of its buzziest smaller brands, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has snared a high-caliber executive from Prada Group to helm Givenchy, WWD has learned.

The French house, which staged its latest show here Sunday night, is to reveal today that Sebastian Suhl is its new chief executive officer, effective today.

Suhl was most recently Prada Group’s chief operating officer.

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He succeeds Susan Whiteley, a British national who is said to be returning to the U.K. for personal reasons. She joined Givenchy a year ago from Louis Vuitton, where she had been general manager of the U.K., Ireland and Scandinavia since 2004. Holder of an M.B.A. from the Barcelona business school Esade, Suhl is best known for his meteoric career at Prada.

He joined the company in 2001 as general manager of France, following stints at the fashion houses Courrèges and Thimister.

Polyglot and full of energy, Suhl was promoted to Prada’s ceo in the Asia-Pacific in 2005, where he spearheaded the Italian firm’s retail expansion.

In 2009, he was named group chief operating officer, which had him reporting to ceo Patrizio Bertelli, and heading the retail, wholesale, e-commerce and marketing departments for the Prada, Miu Miu and Car Shoe brands. “During his time at Prada, Sebastian Suhl has shown not only in-depth knowledge of the markets but also the capacity to expand and increase business dynamically and effectively,” Bertelli stated at the time.

Indeed, Suhl has been pursued by a number of high-profile fashion players, including Japan’s Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., parent of Uniqlo, as reported.

He arrives at a fashion house that has been on a roll under Riccardo Tisci, its couturier since 2005. Leaving Givenchy’s prim, clichéd “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” image of yore in the dust, Tisci has charted a more hot-blooded, dark-hearted path for the house. While faithful to the hallmarks of the brand — aristocracy, chic elegance and a French spirit — Tisci’s look is clean and severe, with a touch of romance. Recent Givenchy collections have been influential, fanning trends for bold prints and sparkling crystal.

Tisci, 37, keeps racking up high-profile celebrity credits, dressing “Millennium” actress Rooney Mara for the most recent Academy Awards, and Madonna for her halftime performance at last month’s Super Bowl in Indianapolis.

But the brand has yet to push the accelerator on its retail expansion, relying mostly on wholesale for distribution, particularly in Europe and the United States.

Although LVMH’s biggest and most profitable brands — headlined by Louis Vuitton and Fendi — get the lion’s share of attention from analysts, its so-called second-tier brands have been gaining momentum. They fall under the purview of Pierre-Yves Roussel, the chairman and ceo of LVMH’s fashion division, which also includes Kenzo, Celine, Marc Jacobs, Loewe and Emilio Pucci.

At the French group’s most recent results presentation, LVMH chairman and ceo Bernard Arnault trumpeted rapidly improving fortunes for many of the group’s smaller brands, singling out Loewe and Celine for special mention.

“We are generating remarkable growth numbers,” he said with a smile. “I’m not promising another Louis Vuitton, but we certainly expect new businesses of the same caliber.”