PARIS — When Sidney Toledano hands over the baton to Pietro Beccari next year, after almost 20 years at the helm of Christian Dior Couture, he won’t be heading quietly into the sunset.
At 66, the executive — who is close to Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton — is gearing up for his next challenge: heading up LVMH Fashion Group, where he will be in charge of steering brands including Céline, Loewe and Givenchy.
“It’s a nice moment for me because Dior is on a high and so am I, with a terrific team. It’s a carefully considered decision, but one that didn’t take long,” Toledano told WWD in an interview after LVMH unveiled its biggest management shuffle in five years.
“This job that Bernard Arnault is entrusting me with allows me to switch to a different type of management. It’s an important wish on my part,” he said. “I am passionate about transmission. I have no more career ego to prove, but I am so happy to pass things on. It’s mentoring, it’s coaching, it’s guidance.”
Beccari will join Dior from Fendi, which he helped to propel beyond the billion-euro revenue mark by dropping its ubiquitous logo bags in favor of more upscale products, in addition to developing lifestyle destinations like Palazzo Fendi in Rome, comprising a boutique hotel and Zuma restaurant.
“The Dior Maison has enormous prestige and I approach it with much humility,” the Italian executive said in a separate interview. “I will inject all my passion and commitment [into Dior], as well as a dose of ambition. I hope to continue to build a company that represents so much for France and for the Arnault family.”
The nominations follow months of speculation following LVMH’s 6.5-billion-euro acquisition of Christian Dior Couture in July, reuniting its fashion and fragrance activities under a single umbrella, and making Dior the second-largest brand in the group’s fashion division, behind Louis Vuitton and ahead of Fendi.
The house is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year with events including a retrospective at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris that has broken attendance records at the museum.
“The appointment of Pietro Beccari as head of Christian Dior Couture signals a new era,” Arnault said in a statement. “He will be an excellent leader who will steer Dior toward ever-greater success in the future.”
Arnault credited Toledano as the “driving force” behind Dior’s success over the last 25 years. “I want to offer my profound gratitude and am delighted that we will continue to work together and benefit from his expertise,” he said.
Toledano joined Dior in 1994, rapidly making his mark with the launch of the Lady Dior handbag, which remains a bestseller for the brand. He was promoted to ceo in 1998, and since then has overseen a tenfold increase in the brand’s revenues.
He will take over as chairman and ceo of the Fashion Group from Pierre-Yves Roussel, who will remain as a special advisor to Arnault, the group said. The heads of Céline, Givenchy, Kenzo, Loewe, Marc Jacobs, Pucci, Rossi Moda and Nicholas Kirkwood will report to Toledano.
Roussel will take on new operational responsibilities with the LVMH executive committee, of which he has been a member for 14 years, but the executive told WWD he plans to take some time off first.
Arnault thanked Roussel for his “excellent” work at the Fashion Group over the last decade. “In particular, he has played an instrumental role in the selection of the best creative talents and in implementing innovative strategies and high-performing teams within the different houses,” the LVMH chief said.
Toledano and Beccari will become members of LVMH’s executive committee. The appointments will take effect from the beginning of 2018.
Beccari will help find a successor at Fendi, effectively stepping into the Dior role and moving to Paris in February. He expressed his pride and gratitude for being offered such a position, adding that he “will try to pay back with sound results, which is what is expected of me.”
He also conceded a pinch of sadness at leaving Fendi, where he took over as ceo in 2012, succeeding Michael Burke. “I leave with pride in what has been achieved for the label. Things will take place step by step but there are big changes at the group level, ushering in a new era,” he said.
Toledano said he expects revenues at Christian Dior Couture to exceed 2 billion euros in 2017. Including the beauty division, retail equivalent sales will total around 8 billion euros in 2017, Exane BNP Paribas estimates. The calculation applies a multiplier to wholesale and license sales to derive the retail sales value.
Toledano wouldn’t comment on that estimate, but said Dior still has plenty of room to grow. “Pietro will know how to do it. I have complete faith in him and I will definitely help him,” he said. “We have known each other since he joined the group.”
During his tenure, Toledano transformed the company from a licensing-driven operation to one centered on control of production and distribution. The brand now makes 95 percent of its sales through its own stores and has a single license left with Safilo for eyewear.
A right brain-left brain type, the executive has a knack for managing creative leaders — who at Dior include not only a couturier, but dedicated designers for men’s wear, fine jewelry and watches, homewares and Baby Dior.
“I am passionate about this brand, passionate about the people, having worked with all these designers,” he said, reeling off the names of John Galliano, Hedi Slimane, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Raf Simons, Kris Van Assche and Victoire de Castellane.
Toledano added that Chiuri would remain as creative director of women’s wear at Dior. “The creative direction will continue, absolutely,” he said.
Though he considers himself a demanding boss, Toledano is widely esteemed for his suave manners, knowledge and personal warmth. His professional achievements have earned him honors, including the inaugural WWD award for CEO/Creative Leadership last year.
He is also president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Mode Masculine, the men’s ready-to-wear division of French fashion’s governing body, and head of the Cercle Saint-Roch, which creates a bridge between fashion houses and students at the École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.
“I am proud that I was able to be a leader who knew how to work with his teams and bring on excellent people and to work with them at every level, from communications to retail. Many of these people have gone on to be big bosses,” Toledano said.
The executive will now apply that experience to a bouquet of brands, with his first order of business likely being to navigate a creative transition at Céline, find a formula that works at Pucci and to guide Marc Jacobs out of several years of underperformance.
“I will perhaps go less into the details than I did at Dior. As you know, I’m very hands-on. I know this house by heart — from the factories to the workshops, studios and stores, down to their stocks. But I will be extremely operational,” Toledano said.
“It won’t be just mentoring. I have a very clear responsibility to the shareholder to deliver results for all these brands. That is what I signed up for,” he added.
Beccari sees his move to Paris as “a return home” given his past experience at Vuitton. “That said, I will miss Rome, its beauty, its blue skies and its light,” he added.
The executive joined Vuitton in 2006 from consumer products giant Henkel as director of strategy and marketing coordination, ultimately taking on responsibility for business units including ready-to-wear and accessories.
From 2009, he held the role of executive vice president of communications and marketing with worldwide responsibilities. He dramatically developed both the accessories and ready-to-wear businesses, working with then artistic director Marc Jacobs, and rose in the ranks to become executive vice president.
Beccari is close to Antoine Arnault, ceo of Berluti and a director at LVMH, with whom he worked at Vuitton. Beccari is also supervisory board president at Berluti.
A native of Parma, Italy, he once played soccer professionally, and started his career in international marketing at consumer products giant Reckitt Benckiser in Milan. He went on to work for Parmalat in New York for a couple of years before joining Henkel in Germany, where he worked for 10 years.
Beccari, 50, speaks fluent French, English and German, is married and has three daughters. Affable, eloquent and driven, he has elevated the luxury quotient of Fendi and its overall perception, emphasizing its links to the city of Rome with a deeper focus on its fur roots and its craftsmanship.
Fendi’s target customer has grown more sophisticated and younger during this process.
Beccari masterminded the restoration of the company’s new headquarters at the stately Palazzo della Civiltà, opening the ground floor to the city as an exhibition space. Since 2015, more than 100,000 visitors have flocked to the venue, from young university students and families to tourists.
He has invested in Fendi’s promotion of the arts, most recently inking a partnership with the Rome-based art museum Galleria Borghese.
Beccari has also spearheaded several initiatives to reinforce the relationship between Fendi and the city of Rome, including the restoration of several fountains in the city including the Trevi Fountain, where a spectacular Haute Fourrure show marking the brand’s 90th anniversary was held in July last year.
The show was a first for the Baroque monument, with a catwalk placed on the water and the closure of four neighboring streets on a busy summer day. “I refuse to look at projects that are not ambitious enough,” Beccari said at the time. “We must think big. Surprise me.”
Karen Harvey, chief executive officer of Karen Harvey Consulting, applauded the Dior appointment, describing Beccari as the perfect person for the job.
“He’s really, really good with deeply understanding the DNA of a brand. He did an incredible job with Fendi. He’s one of the best talents and leaders they have in LVMH and I think it was really brilliant to put him in this role. I think he’s fantastic. He’s great with product, he’s a really good leader and has real vision,” she said.
“Everything he has touched in one way or the other has emerged most brilliantly from a product perspective. That’s exactly what the group needs,” said Harvey, predicting that Beccari’s skills as a merchant and brand developer would help Dior consolidate its new identity under Chiuri.
Robert Burke, chief executive officer of Robert Burke Associates, said LVMH does a good job of grooming people from within.
“I do think they do a good job with succession planning and the movement from one brand to another,” he said. “I think it’s a very strong move. It makes great sense given Sidney Toledano’s incredible knowledge and leadership. Sidney is an operator. He knows how to operate brands. It’s a big vote of confidence for the LVMH Fashion Group to have him come on because there are few ceo’s as talented as he is.
“Certainly with Beccari’s move from Fendi, he knows the company and the culture well, and this will be a big opportunity for him. It’s a very strong, interesting and thoughtful move,” Burke added.
Meanwhile, Roussel told WWD he hopes to take “a couple of months” off to “refresh” himself before taking on a new assignment in the sprawling French group.
To be sure, he’s had a fruitful tenure shepherding and growing LVMH’s so-called second-tier brands, which a decade ago analysts were urging Arnault to offload so as not to distract from cash-cow brands such as Vuitton, Parfums Christian Dior and Dom Perignon.
Most were small and loss-making when Roussel arrived, giving him the freedom to experiment with new strains of creative leadership, famously recruiting fashion star Phoebe Philo to reinvent Céline in her own image, sweeping out all the old products and pressing the reset button.
He hired retailers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of Opening Ceremony to transform Kenzo from a moribund designer label to a zesty, contemporary player riding the streetwear craze with its tiger sweatshirts, logo caps and skater shoes.
And most recently he installed fashion wunderkind Jonathan Anderson to rev up Loewe with his crafty, cultural mien.
It is understood the Fashion Group tripled in size under Roussel’s watch, with some brands multiplying five, six and seven times. Roussel said that proves that Arnault’s vision “of having a large portfolio of brands can be successful.”
He noted that “we could have grown those brands even faster, but we’ve been very controlled.” He cited two mantras — “experimenting within a vision” and “agility with focus” — as his guiding principles, along with the belief that “talent is everything.”
“As long as there is interest and appetite in fashion, then the game is how do you make your brands relevant and desirable in that space,” he said. “If you don’t experiment and try things, you’re stuck.
“Fashion is a continuous challenge,” he added. Indeed, not all brands in the group have found their groove, with Pucci still seeking the right creative formula, and Marc Jacobs in the midst of a turnaround.
While he insists it wasn’t intentional, Roussel also brought greater gender parity to his division. Most recently, he recruited Sylvie Colin from the contemporary fashion brand Maje, to helm Kenzo. She started Sept. 25.
Colin is the third female executive to arrive at the helm of an LVMH fashion house in the past year. Roussel tapped Berluti’s Séverine Merle to succeed Marco Gobbetti at Céline and Pascale Lepoivre, the number-two executive at Céline, to take the helm of Loewe.