Diesel has tapped VF Corp. veteran Steve Birkhold to be the new chief executive officer of Diesel USA.

Birkhold replaces Panicko Philippou, who had been with Diesel for 12 years and was named ceo of Diesel USA in January 2004. Sources said Philippou left the company for personal reasons and has returned to his home in London.

Birkhold comes to Diesel with a lengthy denim pedigree, but little experience managing a full collection brand. Diesel has expanded well beyond its premium denim roots to include dresses, accessories, intimates and fragrances.

Accessories, in particular, have been a driving force in Diesel’s business. When the company redesigned its Union Square store in Manhattan in September 2006, the layout included an area devoted to accessories near the entrance. At the time, the accessories area was considered a test model for a possible stand-alone Diesel accessories concept. Diesel has 35 U.S. stores, with its latest opening in Atlanta in September.

Birkhold spent 11 years with VF, where he was most recently general manager of the Nautica Jeans business. In 2004, he was named president of VF’s Earl Jean brand, which was sold to Jordache Enterprises in 2006. Prior to Earl, Birkhold served as a vice president and general manager for women’s at VF’s Lee brand.

This story first appeared in the November 8, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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