Diesel USA chief executive officer Steve Birkhold will exit that post at the end of this year. He is leaving to take a ceo position with another company, which sources said is a privately held, global lifestyle brand. That company is expected to announce his appointment today.
This story first appeared in the November 16, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Additionally, Wilbert Das, the creative director at Diesel, has also left the company. He was with Diesel for over two decades, and his most recent contract expired with the fall-winter 2010 collection. On Das’ departure, the Molvena, Italy-based firm said: “It is in the nature of Diesel and a precise company strategy to keep on evolving and staying ahead of its time, therefore a refreshed creative direction is needed.”
WWD first reported in March that Das would likely exit his post. Diesel, which is a unit of Renzo Rosso’s Only the Brave holding company, will announce a new creative head in the coming weeks, according to a spokesman.
Birkhold, who took the top spot at Diesel in November 2007, will remain there through December and assume his new position in January. This year, Birkhold has overseen the opening of two Diesel stores, including a 20,000-square-foot flagship on Fifth Avenue, and a Miami unit. In addition, the company relocated two stores in San Francisco and Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood. Diesel operates 46 stores, including Diesel, Diesel Kid, 55 DSL and outlet units.
In an interview with WWD in late October, Birkhold acknowledged the weak economy has impacted Diesel sales. He said denim sales were down in the single digits this year, while fashion apparel was down double digits. These declines were partly offset by strength in the footwear, accessories and underwear businesses, which offer a lower price point entry to the Diesel brand.
Diesel has emphasized expanding its offerings in lower price ranges, with some jeans selling for $110. Birkhold has also engineered returning Diesel to some Macy’s stores in the spring — following a four-year absence at that retailer — in order to boost the brand’s wholesale numbers.
Prior to joining Diesel, Birkhold was an 11-year veteran of VF Corp., including stints as general manager of its Nautica Jeans business and president of the Earl Jean brand. Prior to that, he was vice president and general manager for women’s at VF’s Lee Jeans brand.