Holt Renfrew, continuing to build a new senior management team as it faces increasing competition across Canada’s retail landscape, has hired Linda DeFrances as senior vice president and general merchandise manager.

Linda DeFrances 

DeFrances will oversee all merchandise divisions which include women’s and men’s wear, beauty and accessories.

In addition, Manuel Frei has been named creative director, a new position involving all aspects of creative direction, marketing and communications, fashion direction and store design.

Manuel Frei 

DeFrances and Frei report to Mario Grauso, president of the Toronto-based Holt Renfrew. Grauso became Holt’s president last September after serving as president of Joe Fresh. When he came in as president, Grauso assumed the chief merchant role, which had previously been held by Steven Cook.

Most recently, DeFrances was vice president of women’ ready-to-wear and brand development at Saks Fifth Avenue. Earlier, she was the divisional merchandise manager of women’s wear at Bergdorf Goodman, and prior to that she was a buyer at Barneys New York.

Frei has held various roles with Condé Nast, Bally, Moncler and most recently was executive creative director at Laird + Partners.

Holt has been going through an aggressive $300 million expansion program over the last several years, geared to take the retailer from a total of 800,000 square feet to more than 1.2 million square feet. The company is also seeking to eclipse $1 billion in revenues. Last year was estimated by sources to be somewhere around $900 million in annual volume, though recent entries into the country by Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue in the past couple of years has heightened the competition.

Holt Renfrew is part of the Selfridges Group, which is also owned by the Weston family who control Loblaw Cos. Ltd., which includes Joe Fresh.
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