NEW YORK — Charlotte Neuville is about to take over the design reins of the iconic $5.7 billion Gap brand.

As executive vice president of design and product development, she will oversee all aspects of product design and development for the brand’s adult men’s and women’s apparel and accessories, reporting to Gap president Cynthia Harriss.

Neuville replaces Pina Ferlisi, who left the company on Tuesday. A Gap spokeswoman would not comment on the circumstances of Ferlisi’s departure, saying only, “We decided it was time for a change in the design group.”

Ferlisi was one of the first designers in Gap’s history to be widely introduced to the world, a big change for a company that took an anonymous approach to its design team. Ferlisi, who had worked with Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfiger and Elie Tahari previously, was widely interviewed and photographed in 2003 when her Fifties-inspired styles were introduced and Gap continued to make her available to the fashion press to discuss trends at the retailer.

Neuville also has a long history in the fashion industry. She was executive vice president of design for New York & Co. for nine years, where she led the design team’s creative direction for women’s apparel. Prior to that, she held senior design positions at Cygne Designs, Jones New York Sport, Adrienne Vittadini and Perry Ellis. In addition, Neuville had her own apparel collection.

She begins her new job on Monday. Neuville is a native of San Francisco, where Gap Inc. has its headquarters, but she’ll work at the company’s New York design center.

“With more than 20 years of design experience, Charlotte has a strong and proven ability to interpret style and provide leadership in product development,” said Harriss in a statement.

The Gap has been struggling in the face of lackluster sales. Last week, Gap Inc. reported a same-store sales decline of 6 percent for September. By division, Gap North America posted a 3 percent decline in same-store sales while Gap International’s comps plunged 13 percent. At Banana Republic North America, same-store sales fell 7 percent while Old Navy North America’s September comps fell 7 percent.

To stem the decline, the Gap brand is applying a filter it calls “fresh, casual, American style,” with the aim of achieving those qualities in every garment. Harriss, the recently named division president, is behind the initiative.

This story first appeared in the October 12, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The spokeswoman said the fruits of “fresh, casual American style” will be apparent in holiday and spring deliveries. “It’s fresh, bright colors and going back to the quintessential Gap feeling,” she said. “We know it’s time for a change at Gap brand, and Charlotte is going to be a part of it.”

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