Massimo Piombini

MILAN — The pace of fashion is quickening, as the industry faces the demands of new customers across geographies and age groups, armed with social media, online knowledge and social awareness, and the competition gets tougher by the day. Old rules are out the door, and so are many brand leaders, as the tenure of chief executive officers is increasingly shorter. Several Italian fashion companies kick off 2020 with new ceo’s in place, tasked with rejuvenating, fixing, or simply boosting business — and the quicker the better. Tradition is an Italian stronghold, but these executives are asked to adapt to the times and bring innovation and freshness to storied and often artisanal brands.

Massimo Piombini, who spearheaded Balmain’s rejuvenation and expansion with Olivier Rousteing, will join Diesel as its new ceo in February, as the company is in the midst of a restructuring. Founder Renzo Rosso hailed Piombini’s arrival by noting he expects the executive “to take [the brand] where it deserves to be.” Piombini reports to Ubaldo Minelli, ceo of Diesel parent company OTB.

Before Balmain, Piombini spent more than a decade at Valentino as commercial director, and previously worked at other luxury brands, including Bally, Bulgari and Gucci. He succeeds Marco Agnolin, who left his role as ceo of the brand at the end of March last year. Exiting Parisian label Zadig & Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Guével will succeed Piombini at Balmain in February.

Also under the OTB umbrella, Marni’s ceo Stefano Biondo exited the company at the end of November after 18 months helming the brand, and was succeeded by Barbara Calò with the title of general manager. Calò joined Marni at the beginning of 2016 as global omnichannel director, and in her new position she reports to Minelli.

Jacopo Venturini, Gucci’s former executive vice president, merchandising and markets, is headed to Valentino, according to multiple market sources. Venturini is said to be joining the Rome-based couture company in a top senior role. Sources believe he will succeed ceo Stefano Sassi.

One source said his arrival at Valentino is not expected before February or March, or in any case after the closing of the financial year. It is understood Venturini, who left Gucci in October, is also bound by a non-compete agreement.

This would be a return to Valentino for Venturini, who is a highly regarded and experienced industry veteran. He joined Gucci in 2015 from Valentino and, before that, worked at Prada.

The house of Valentino had no comment on the speculation. Sassi was appointed Valentino’s ceo in 2006 and has been instrumental in leading and growing the company through the acquisition in 2012 by the Qatar-based Mayhoola. If he does not leave Mayhoola, which also owns Balmain and Pal Zileri, sources believe Sassi could move up the ladder and oversee the brands at group level. Venturini’s arrival would signal yet another change at Valentino.  Sebastian Suhl will leave the company at the end of January. Suhl joined in January 2018 as managing director of global markets, reporting to Sassi.

Brioni will return to Florence with a presentation at international men’s wear trade show Pitti Uomo on Jan. 7 and under the watch of a new ceo, Mehdi Benabadji, who joined on Jan. 1. He succeeds Fabrizio Malverdi and reports to Jean-François Palus, managing director of parent group Kering. Benabadji has worked at Kering since 2003 and most recently served as chief operating officer, overseeing logistics and industrial activities.

Another storied Italian men’s wear company, Corneliani, has appointed a new ceo, Giorgio Brandazza. He succeeds Luigi Ferrando, who had been ceo of the Italian brand for just one year. Brandazza’s previous experiences includes a role as chief operating officer of Calvin Klein Jeanswear and international business development manager of Italian men’s wear brand Boggi. Corneliani is controlled by Bahrain-based Investcorp, which in 2016 invested in the storied company, founded by Carlalberto Corneliani and his late brother Claudio in 1958.

Brandazza joins the company at a difficult stage. Corneliani is planning to cut 130 factory jobs in its Mantua, Italy, headquarters. The decision is part of a three-year strategic plan, developed by the men’s wear company to face its financial difficulties, which are linked to the ongoing struggles in the men’s luxury formalwear sector.

These are the latest in a string of executive changes, from Bartolomeo Rongone at Bottega Veneta succeeding Claus-Dietrich Lahrs, or Riccardo Bellini, joining Chloé from Maison Margiela, to Gabriele Maggio’s arrival at Stella McCartney from Moschino, which tapped Stefano Secchi from Etro, to name a few.

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